Tuesday, December 24, 2013

T minus 26 days!

OMG! It's Christmas eve, which means that we have less than 4 weeks until race day (26 days to be exact)!!

I occasionally like to look back through my old posts to gain perspective on how far I've come, and I am definitely feeling more hopeful and excited than I was during last year's training season .  Mainly I can attribute this to the fact that my body is handling the pressure better, and I'm being much smarter about listening to aches and pains and knowing the difference between fatigue and exhaustion.

We are pushing through on our training schedule through the holidays, which is no easy feat! Schedules are packed, and we are re-scheduling weekly to fit it all in.  As a result, we are losing a little bit of our Wednesday night strength training (arms mostly, and extra heavy squats on Mondays), but at this point it is about keeping things strong as they are, and keeping everything happy. :)  When the race is over, we can go back to a bigger emphasis on building muscle just in time to get ready for summer.

We lost mileage last week, so we are making sure this week is full, despite the fact that Christmas is smack in the middle, and Sunday's long run is being moved to Saturday. Since it wasn't possible to get all the runs in and keep a designated rest day before the first one, we took our normal leg night and shifted it to keep the emphasis off the legs:

Sunday: Cross training, mixed cardio (treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike), 60 minutes
Monday: Cross training (stair climber and elliptical) and abs, 90 minutes
Tuesday: 7 mile run, downtown
Wednesday: OFF! (Merry Christmas!)
Thursday: 5 mile run, on the track, with final mile composed of sprints
Friday: OFF!
Saturday: 9 mile run, Papago Park (testing the hills for the race)

I am super excited and proud of where we are up until this point. The fact that we had extra weeks in the 8-9 mile range made me feel a little better that we lost some mileage this week due to exhaustion and sickness.  But if we learned nothing over the past few years, we learned that we need to listen to our bodies when they scream for rest.  Losing 2 miles here and there is not going to hurt us in the end.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hot Chocolate 15k - a helpful learning experience!

The motto for the Hot Chocolate 15k Race on Sunday became "What not to do before P.F. Changs."

We've been on track and have been doing so well throughout our training schedule! I'm not sure what happened, but we both spaced and did something really stupid before the 15k.  We went out on Friday night.  Seems harmless, but all the free wine coupled with a very late night was a very poor choice two nights before our race.  And the crazy thing is, it didn't even occur to either one of us that we should call it an early night.  As a result, we were sluggish, our legs felt heavy from mile one, and we were under hydrated. This meant for a looooong 9.32 miles.

I also made the mistake of eating wheat on both Thursday and Friday night (in the form of regular soy sauce). Between that and the wine and the mystery food at the corporate party, my stomach was crazy upset.  I was literally up all night on Friday and did not sleep at all.  I was miserable.  On Saturday I forced myself to eat, knowing that my food would make me nauseous and most likely wouldn't digest well, but was necessary for success during the run, and drank a bunch of coconut water.  This helped a lot.
This is my savior.  It's not Wai Koko, but it works in a pinch.

On Sunday, I was up at 5 to eat after a good night of sleep, and because it was nervous, my stomach was worse! I was popping pepcid and immodium all the way to the start line, which I'm sure did wonders for my hydration.  Seriously, I have to figure a way around this. It is the worst.

Not only does sleep need to be a priority, but these little dietary concessions I have been continually making have to stop.  I've come so far with my elimination diet and know what foods irritate me, but I put myself through it anyway out of convenience and being able to eat in public with others.  The remainder of December and the entirety of January have to be devoted to clean eating. I think that January will be devoted to bland eating to try and eliminate any possibility of stomach discomfort in the days leading up until the race. Seems strict, but I think completely necessary.
*Side note: I developed a cramp in my stomach at about 3 miles in.  It just went away yesterday (almost 4 days later).  It felt like a side stitch, but those normally go away? Not entirely sure if this water related, breath related (it was pretty cold so my lungs were constricted), or food related? I'm hoping not the latter.

A couple other things were off during the race.  It was cloudy when we arrived, so I left my sunglasses in the car.  Just before our coral was about the start, the sun came out in full force.  I was forced to squint for the majority of the race.  I also was stuck with the jacket that was completely necessary pre-race but was promptly tied around my waist from the start of the run.  It slid constantly (as did my shirt) and I ended up fighting with it for the entirely of the 9.32 miles.  I knew better, I should have left it in the car and just froze while I was waiting in the coral.

Pretty much all 9.32 miles was a challenge, but the beauty of the entire debacle?

  • It was a training run.
  • It was a wonderful test run for how much food/water/sleep was needed for race day in January.
  • We also got to test fuel during the run.  The favorite so far is dried cranberries, and we ate a couple at mile 4 and then a few more at mile 6.  The little burst of sugar helped deplete lost glucose and give a little more energy to sustain the next leg of the race.  Dried cranberries: delicious. Fresh cranberries: OH THE HORROR.  Tried that last week and that will never happen again! :)
We may have been slow, but there were still 600 people behind us!
Official race time: 1134/1774.  1:40:09

This is why it's important to train... to learn from your mistakes. :)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

This week's "A-ha!" moment

It's been a really interesting week.  We had an epiphany, of sorts.

Last week, due to Thanksgiving, we ended up rearranging our training schedule a bit to accommodate for plans with family and realistically schedule around events so we would be successful in our attempts instead of just half-assing it because we were tired/hungover, etc.  As a result, our short run moved from Wednesday to Thursday, and our arm workout moved from Wednesday evening to Wednesday lunch.  No big deal.

On Wednesday, I had family coming into town, and due to traffic they got in pretty late.  I ended up staying up until 1:30 am in the morning.  This would have been fine, except our run was scheduled for 9:00 am and I had to get up early (around 6) to eat something before it.  I did not sleep well, I forgot to prep my breakfast the night before, so as a result I only ate a little bit and it wasn't very appetizing.  My run on Thursday (5 miles) could not have felt worse.  My leg felt GREAT actually, but my mind, my lungs, and my momentum crashed. I was not in the right head space, my arms and legs felt like they each weighed 100 pounds and I could barely propel myself forward.  Ordinarily we run the entire way through, unless we get stopped at red lights (it happens frequently downtown), but this time I had to stop to walk about 3 times.  If we had a leash, I would have been wearing it and Christi would have been dragging my sorry ass around the block.  Walking isn't the end of the world of course, but it was certainly unusual for 5 miles and hasn't actually happened in a long time.

I started wracking my brain trying to figure out what I did wrong:
1. Wednesday wasn't a rest day.  I worked my arms and core, which explained why my arms were so heavy.  If your arms aren't moving, the rest of you isn't moving much either.
2. I didn't sleep enough. I certainly didn't sleep well.
3. I probably didn't drink enough water, and then I had 3 glasses of wine on Wednesday night. Don't judge me...
4. My breakfast not only had very little protein, but my oatmeal was runny and I didn't finish it, and I didn't eat it early enough to digest in my system before taking off on the run. It did not sit well.

I shrugged it off, and made a mental note to take better precautions on Saturday for Sunday's run.

On Sunday, we ran 8 miles.  While I didn't get to sleep incredibly early, I slept very well.  I got up early to eat, not quite early enough to cook and digest fully, but I at least had a better breakfast (tofu and potatoes).  The run felt really good.  My legs were tired by about 6.5 miles, and we got stopped at a few stoplights (which by then, I was thankful for), but the difference between Thursday and Sunday was tenfold.

Fast forward to this week.  (I know, sorry... this is a long story. I should have warned you!) On Monday night, we realized that all of our short runs in December were now 6 miles long.  (Yes, 6 miles is "short").  They are all also scheduled on Wednesday morning.  Runs on Wednesdays must be completed by 5:30 am to get Christi to work, so this meant moving our run from 4:30 to 4:15 am.  Ehh, no biggie.  But what this also meant was that it was at least an hour of running (and likely a little longer, it is 4 am and all and we are sleepy), so this meant fueling the run was a necessity.  This meant getting up at 3:00 AM to eat.  You heard that right, 3:00AM.
*I am pretty sure I once said that I draw the line at getting up before 4, but just in case it wasn't clear, I am definitely drawing the line at 3.  Anything requiring me to get up earlier than that requires a change in my hobby. :)

Tuesday, I was on it.  I boiled potatoes and made tempeh for the next day's breakfast.  I had my clothes out and ready to go.  My shoes were and headphones were by the door so I didn't need to fumble around for them in the dark.  I was in bed at 8:00 pm and up at 3:00 am on the dot.  I ate breakfast, chilled a bit with the cats, and then went out to the track.  I ran all 6 miles and it was like I could have run miles more.  It was the first time (in longer than I can remember) that my head, my lungs, and my body were all in sync.  My heel felt great.  And while I wished I ate a little bit earlier than the run, my food stayed settled as well.  I never needed a second ear bud.  We laughed the entire time.

It doesn't matter what you eat or how many ounces of water you consume, or if you are wearing the perfect shoe, or if you are listening to the perfect mix.  A great, and successful, training run depends solely on one thing: REST.  I am certain that having Tuesday as a rest day and getting 7 hours of sleep made the ultimate difference.  Sure, the food and hydration and shoes all matter.  But without rest, the rest are null and void.

Rest means my legs don't get ultra tired, which means I don't start doing funky things with my stride, which means I limit my injury.  Rest means I have plenty of time to loosen sore muscles instead of continuously working them until they get injured.  We are half way through our training program and ahead on our mileage, and the best part is that despite the few twinges and occasional need for sports tape or ice, it is going relatively easily this time around.

I don't want to jinx myself or anything, but I am feeling pretty damn proud at this moment.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why I am not going to stop.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is not directed towards anybody in particular.  However, I have already started getting the "you should just stop running" and "running doesn't like you" comments, so I feel the need to bring this up as I enter my 4th week of training.

I have had my own string of bad luck when it comes to pain and injury during training.  Believe you me, no one is more annoyed about it than I am.  But of course I have, when I literally started doing this out of no where with no training and no previous athletic experience of any kind.  And the fact that every time I Google anything, loads and loads of websites dedicated to the issue with hundreds of comments and forum posts related to the subject come up on the search feed.  Clearly, I am not alone! I often post the "bad" or "frustrating" because this is how I learn from this. For every 1 bad moment there are 5-10 good ones, a ratio I am more than happy with. I'll make sure to post more of the happy ones.

Running is a solo sport.
True, there is a community of runners who are really awesome and helpful.  And true, I run alongside my amazing running partner.  However, she is not staring at my feet, monitoring my posture, in charge of my stretching or nutrition or making sure I drink enough water and sleep enough.  Yes, she will help push me forward and keep me in check, but physically, it's all on me.

Other sports have coaches and teammates and family members watching from the sidelines, telling you what you are doing wrong and what you need to work on.  There is no one following me around with a camera showing me what I am doing wrong or what needs corrected at that very moment. No one to tell me what my body is naturally inclined to do, what's normal and not, or what I should do next.  It's something that I have to do on my own.

Since the beginning, this has been me and me alone, and it isn't an easy process.  It's going to continue to be a learning experience, one I believe will truly get easier (it already has) as I continue on the journey.

Running is a test of patience, dedication, and strength.
If your son was in soccer, and he was having trouble with it, would you tell him to stop? Would you tell him it isn't the sport for him, even when he has a smile on his face? Of course not. You would tell him to keep with it, and that it will get easier.  That he can do it.  That he shouldn't give up.

I can do it too. I've already done more than I ever thought was physically capable and because I have these moments of frustration, pain, and weakness, it is more motivation and incentive for me push through and prove myself (and everyone else) wrong.

Running may not be my "natural sport," but it is:

  • My therapy. 
  • A test of willpower.
  • Proof that I can do anything I put my mind to
  • A release for all the stress I harbor in my neck and shoulders (never felt better)

I truly appreciate the support and encouragement, and I know that constructive criticism is only out of love and concern.  However, at least while I am in training, if you could please refrain from the "you should just stop" comments, I would really appreciate it, because it doesn't help me when I have races paid for, deadlines on the calendar, and a training plan in place. It adds to the frustration.

Thank you, and love you all.

Oh! And an update to last week's post: I actually do not think that my problem was my Achilles. I think that I actually bruised the inner part of my heel by striking on the treadmill when my legs were tired. The pain had radiated a bit so it was hard to pin-point the source of pain at the time, but as it has heeled, the root issue has been the one that remained sore, something easily healed with ice and ibuprofen. So yay! But, good to know as my Achilles has NOT been something I have really paid attention to, and it's getting added to the list of places that get stretched on a daily basis. :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Well hello there Achilles, I didn't see you there...

So, I'm kind of really awesome at giving advice, and then not taking my own. It's like I can help others but just can't seem to save me from myself! I am trying to rectify that this time though.

I am currently sitting with my food up on an ice back.  Yep.  This time, it's my Achilles tendon on my right food that is inflamed.  I know this is not an uncommon issue for runners and the minute I started feeling pain I grabbed ice and got lots of rest.

Let me back up...
Friday, we did hill intervals as we did the week before, however this time we did the full 30 minutes and our include progressed as 4%, 5%, 6%, 5%, 4%.  Felt great, even though 6% was a little rough at 5 am.

Sunday's long run was moved to Monday and we both decided that 4:30am on a Monday was far too early.  So, we decided to split up the run: 3 miles at lunch, and 3 miles at the gym later that night.  This meant instead of 6 miles on the track, we were treadmill bound for both.  I had a chiropractor adjustment that morning, so I decided it would be best if I took the first run easy.  I ran at a 5.5mph pace and completed 2.9 miles in 30 minutes.  When we got to the gym that night, we jumped on the treadmill first thing.  I had had a frustrating evening so it was game on.  I hit 6mph right away, which I had done many times in the past, but for some reason, my inner calf along my right tibia was getting a bit sore.  It wasn't too bad so I didn't think too much of it, but it was noticeable enough that it caught my attention.  I probably should have dropped the pace or walked the rest, but I didn't, because I just assumed it was fine.  It usually is.  We started the leg workout, and when I got to single leg squats, I definitely noticed the pain in my calf.  I took down the intensity and treaded very carefully as to not injure anything. The pain did not get worse and just remained a slight dull pain, so I got home and iced it and taped it with KT tape, and then headed off to bed.

Tuesday morning, I woke up, and my calf was perfectly fine.  However, the pain was now right at the back of my heel along the Achilles.
Well, shit.  That was unexpected.  I grabbed my KT tape and added more to my leg, this time along the back of heel and up the calf, with a cross piece directly over the pain.  I assumed it would go away within the morning.  Except it didn't.  The pain was really bothering me by the time I got home that night (10:00pm), so I realized there was no way I could run on it in the morning.  Even if it didn't hurt, I needed to give it a little more time so the inflammation had enough time to heal.  So, back to more ice and more rest.  Repeat.

So my Google fu started.  I started looking up common reasons for Achilles inflammation:

  • tightness/fatigue in calf muscles
  • running sprints and hills
  • improper shoe support
  • Overtraining/increasing mileage too quickly
  • Hyperpronation

Ding! Ding! Ding! So, I know it isn't my shoes, and I don't think it was increase in mileage, other than the fact that I was on a treadmill and my form may have been off, or the fact that I had run earlier that day and my legs were a bit tired.  We had just done hills a few days prior, and my hips/hamstrings and calves were very tight.  Being the major tendon that connects the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles to the heel bone, and coincidentally incredibly tight already with very little blood flow, it's no surprise I pissed it off.

The great news is, I am positive I don't a tear or a rupture, but just some minor inflammation.  It feels substantially better today unless I am on my feet for a really long time.  The key here is that it is minor, and it needs to stay that way.  If I don't give it enough TLC, then the next 9 weeks are going to be torture.  So, until I can run with no pain, I am elliptical bound (grumble) to continue getting mileage and keep everything moving, alternating ice and rest and have started a bit of ibuprofen.  Hopefully I'll be back to myself in no time.

I need to figure out a stretching and foam rolling routine that I can integrate at different times of the day when I am not currently running or at the gym.  I need something to help keep everything loosened up when the muscles are not being activated.

Apparently, by the time I get my DPT, I will be a pro at sports medicine just from personal experience. :P


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Week 2! Reality check.

Week 2 was a bit tougher than week 1.  Since I was in CA over the weekend, it shifted everything slightly to make up for being gone on Sunday (which I touched upon here).  While my legs appreciated the reprieve from muscle soreness/fatigue, it changed my outlook on training for the week. It's hard to explain it, but I lost a bit of focus.

After Monday's run and condensed leg workout at the gym, we took Tuesday off as planned. Wednesday morning we headed out to the track.  We were scheduled for a 3 mile run, which we completed in 31:06, a 10:13 pace. Felt pretty good! (for 4am :) )

On Friday I met Christi at the gym at lunch for 20 min of interval training. We were informed that the course for the Half is deceptively hilly, so we decided to shift the focus for the day from speed drills to hill intervals.

Ideally we would have done 30 minutes, but we were a bit condensed for time.
5 minute warm-up, 6mph (10 minute pace)
2 min at 4% incline
2 min recovery run
2 min at 5% incline
2 min recovery run
2 min at 6% incline
2 min recovery run
3 minute cool down run, 6mph

We both felt like we could definitely go longer, so the plan is to take it up to 7%, and then gradually drop down at 6%, 5% and 4% intervals.  But it was a good start. I was able to maintain the same speed until I hit the 6% mark, and then I dropped down to 5.5mph.

Hills can make or break a runner.  They are often a runner's downfall, especially if they train regularly in flat terrain, like we do here in the desert.  However, I was incredibly inspired when I watched the 2012 Olympics, when Stephen Kiprotich used a hill to take the lead over his opponents and won the gold medal in 2:08:01 (by the way, that is almost 30 minutes faster than my HALF marathon finish time last year...lol). It was AMAZING to watch as his opponents slowed down and he used that moment to propel himself forward in order to maintain the lead for the rest of the race.  It's something I will never forget and want to be able to utilize that technique in the future.  (Not that I'm racing anyone, but you know what I mean...)

Back to training...
Saturday was supposed to be cross-training. I had a very busy day scheduled and was going to be gone for the majority of it, and then we were hosting a BBQ that night. I had hoped to get my cross-training in on Friday night (Zumba) but I didn't make it in time.  Saturday, I was really tired (got home late) so I didn't get up extra early, so my cross-training was a loss for the day. To top it off, I made poor food and drink decisions throughout the day and got very little sleep, so my Sunday morning run was not only slow, but I felt nauseous the entire time.  Not exactly ideal circumstances.  To make matters worse, our 5 mile downtown run got shifted due to time constraints, so we decided to run 2 miles to the gym, run 2 miles there, and run 1 mile back. When we got to the gym, it was closed, so we ended up looping around.  We only completed 4.34 miles instead of the 5, which is better than nothing, but not the full mileage we were supposed to complete. I was very disappointed because even though we were both tired, I was feeling especially bad, and it was mainly self inflicted. I should have been more focused, more hydrated, and insisted on going to sleep earlier.  Oh, and I should have skipped the red wine.

When you are not feeling up to par, at least for me, and you lose sight of your running map, it mentally is hard to stay focused.  I like to know where I am running and how much farther I have to go in these moments. Since we didn't have that, it was not the most successful run we've had.  4.34 miles in 48:06, an 11:04 minute pace.

I think the most discouraging thing was that it hadn't been that hard in a long time.  It was a reality check. However, I think it was just what I needed to snap me back into shape:

  • I need to sleep more.
  • I need to hydrate more.
  • I need to stay focused.
  • I need to stop eating things that I am supposed to avoid, because my food intolerance and IBS just can't handle it. 
  • I have to remember the fun. :)
This about sums it up: 


Monday, October 28, 2013

First week of training under the belt!

I'm going to try and actively post during this training season so I don't forget anything and really keep track of our progress.

The first week of training was a success! Having a calm and mellow weekend prior to it made it easier to have a smooth transition, catch up on sleep, get in the correct mindset, get food prepped and ready to go (all things that equate for a successful week).

Monday night: Legs!

  • It had been almost a month since we had had a hardcore leg workout, but it felt great to be back in the swing of things with a 90 minute leg workout.  15 minutes of speed intervals on the stair climber followed by three sets of 10 each of the following: Squats with an overhead bar, single leg squats holding a bar out front, calf raises on a step with an overhead bar, incline leg press, incline calf press, incline wide angle leg press, linear hack press, squats balanced on a bosu ball, alternating jump squats, toe lifts (30/set).
  • We determined we needed to add in another hamstrings exercise for knee strength, and add in single leg dead lifts to also help with ankle support, so those will get added in next week. 
  • It was also pointed out by my lovely sister and personal trainer that we are doing a lot of work with our calves that may actually be too much, since we are starting to add a lot more mileage.  We will get rid of these so we don't end up injuring either our calves or shins. 
  • We have finally found a very well-rounded workout that hits all the target areas, as well as works a bit of core.  It's taken awhile but it's finally getting there! We had to drop down the weight a bit since we were a bit out of practice, but that will build back up over the next month with no problem.
Tuesday: rest day
  • Oh my legs and ass! So sore! Very happy to "rest."
  • Also, how did I end up with leg night on Monday, followed by school all day, which means repeatedly climbing up and down 3 flights of stairs?? Ha! 
Wednesday: Double day
  • 4:30am: 4 mile run - with everything going on over the past month, it had been a while since we had run 4 miles straight, and without a treadmill assist.  Back at the track, we ran an 11:00 minute pace, which was a bit slow for us, but the run actually felt really great.  I will take a slow and really great feeling run over a fast and miserable one any day.
  • The best part? It was 64 degrees. FINALLY, our 4:30 run isn't hot or sticky.
  • 7:30pm: Upper body and core - We used to do upper body split out over a few days, during our lunch break in 20-25 minute chunks.  That definitely sufficed when trying to work with time constraints, but I love having a designated day with 60-90 minutes of time to work out.  Did 15 minutes on the elliptical machine (cascades) to warm up, followed by three sets of 10 each of the following: tricep dips on the bench, skull crushers with a barbell, bicep curls with a barbell, hammer curls with dumbbells, assisted pull ups and dips, captains chair abdominal crunches, flat bench lying leg raises and lying leg raises with butt lifts, push ups on the bar, 1 minute plank holds.
  • We may add a bit more to this but the majority is going to center around using these muscle groups.
  • We also took measurements just to see what type of physical progress we have throughout the training season, also to see if there is a large disparity between left and right sides. Just out of curiosity. :)
Thursday: rest day
  • Yay!
Friday: Speed intervals
  • The ultimate goal was 30 minutes on the treadmill, which Christi was able to do.  I was running late and trying to catch a flight out of town so I only got in 25 minutes.  5 minute warm-up plus 15 minutes of 1 minute sprints (alternating 5mph and 7.5-8mph), followed by a 5 minute cool-down run.  I was feeling pretty good about the 8mph pace until I looked over at the guy next to me and realized he had been running at that pace for 15 minutes straight. Ha! Good thing I don't compare myself to others. :)
Saturday: Cross-training
  • I was in California, so my sister and I went on a bike ride on the path along the LA runner and Long Beach ocean.  Round-trip it was just under 15 miles, and I did it all on a beach cruiser! That meant it was a little tougher than it would have been on a road bike, but the scenic view was worth it. :)
Sunday: Long run day
  • I messed this part of the schedule up by being out of town.  Sunday became a rest day, and we moved it to Monday. Since I wasn't getting in until late, it got shifted from Monday morning to Monday evening, which meant we had to condense the Monday night workout.  A little bit disappointing, but in the end, it's better to sleep than try and push through when my body might easily get an injury. And really, how effective is a long run on zero sleep? (It's not).
Monday: Long run and condensed leg workout
  • 5 miles! We both would have preferred to have been able to do this on the track, but since we were attaching it to our leg workout at the gym, treadmill it is. 
  • I decided tonight (we both did actually) that I hate running on the treadmill.  It's fine for a mile or so but I feel so much better when I'm propelling myself.  5 miles is a long time to run in place and it's easy to step funny.  If it wasn't so late/dark and we weren't trying to immediately transition to a leg workout, I would have rather have run outside.  I was feeling it in strange places and felt like each step was stepping very heavily.  This could be a combination of treadmill and just being tired, but either way, I don't want to have to repeat that again if possible.  I'd rather split the distance into two smaller runs.  
  • By the time we finished 5 miles, we didn't have much time for a leg workout.  And honestly, we were tired, our legs were a little jello-y (technical term) and it would probably have hindered us more than helped us.  We did three sets of the following: 10 stationary squats balanced on the BOSU (combination of quads, balance, and ankle support), 10 single leg deadlifts (per side) with a 15lb dumbbell (to work on ankles and hamstrings), and 30 toe-lifts (to work the shins). 

I still want to add in more core.  Our Monday and Wednesday evening includes it, but I feel like I need to add in more planks and crunches intermittently throughout the week so that they are really getting targeted.  A strong core is key to keeping everything strong and happy and I don't want to forget about it as I start getting more fatigued.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's go time!

It's finally time to start training!

I've been pretty good about my consistency over the past year and keeping a pretty regular exercise routine.  But let's face it: without a goal, it's hard to truly improve.  Nothing has exemplified this fact like the past month, where I have caught myself with amazing lack of motivation, something I have managed to maintain since last year.  There are a couple of factors that have contributed to this:
1. I've been sick.  I got hit with the flu for a week, followed by an upper respiratory infection/bronchitis that I am still fighting off two weeks later.  Since I've been medicating like crazy, I am pretty much always feeling lazy and sleepy.
2. The calm before the storm.  I don't remember doing this during the last training season, but I think it's my subconscious telling me to sleep and relax while I can, knowing that I am going to be pretty exhausted over the next several months.

While this might bring about a little bit of shock to my system, it's okay.  My body has been craving the rest and if I have learned nothing over the past couple of years, it's to listen to my body when it says STOP. SLEEP! So that's what I've been doing.

Monday the 21st marks the beginning of training season: 13 weeks of intense physical, emotional, and nutritional training leading up to the PF Changs Half Marathon in Tempe.  In the middle of it all, we are running the Hot Chocolate 15k in December, which is going to cause us to amp up the mileage a little earlier than our normal training plan. I'm pretty excited about this because we've only ever done 5k, 10k, and 21k, nothing in between.

Our final, solidified training schedule will run Mon-Sun:
Monday: leg night
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: short run in the morning (50-75% of long run), upper body workout in the evening
Thursday: rest
Friday: sprint/interval run
Saturday: cross training (hike, bike riding, yoga, zumba)
Sunday: long run
*core training and abs each time we work out

Here's the progression of our long runs each week: *edited with the corrected dates to adjust for holidays and weekend commitments*
10/28: 5 miles
11/3: 6 miles
11/11: 6 miles
11/17: 6 miles
11/23: 7 miles
12/1: 8 miles
12/8: 9 miles - HOT CHOCOLATE RUN
12/15: 8.5 miles
12/22: 9 miles
12/29: 9 miles *TBD
1/5: 10 miles
1/12: 7 miles
1/19: 13.1 miles - P.F. CHANGS!

To put this in perspective, last year's training schedule only hit 8, 8.5, and 9 miles once, so there's a bit more mileage in this plan.  However, I feel very confident that we can stick to this schedule, knowing we may have to alter slightly during the holidays. Besides, we've already run this before, so we know it's possible. :)

At this point, I have two fears, and they are just things I am learning how to overcome:
1. injury.  I'm not going to lie, I'm a little petrified of it.  I am realizing that I am might be a bit prone to shin splints or calf inflammation and it's frustrating.  Especially after last year's race, I really don't want to run through injury again.  I am vowing to be extra diligent about treating my muscles with care both before and after each training workout.

2. my stomach.  Stress is my biggest IBS trigger and it's incredibly hard to convince my body otherwise! My stomach became my worst enemy the week leading up to the race, so I am really hoping that I don't have a repeat of the same experience.  I am working extra hard at learning how to stay calm and keep everything in peace.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Double Down!

When did it become mid-September? This year is flying back at wicked speed.  What this truly means is that next month, I officially start "training" for my second half marathon, the PF Changs Half in January.

The reality is, I have been training for this all year.  If there is one thing I learned last year, you truly need to train before you "train."  Especially if you are just starting out as a beginner, or if you have taken a long break in between.

This makes complete sense, if you think of it.  The saying is that it takes 21 days to create/break a habit.  Ever have great success with a nutrition or workout regimen, and then you go on vacation, to find that your momentum seemed to have been left behind on the beach? It is hard to start over, which is why most people have trouble sticking to it.  This spring and summer were a great example of this...when I would get back from vacation, my training partner would leave for hers, and we did this multiple times over the span of several months.  Talk about killing the momentum! 

When we started training for our half last year , we discovered our body wasn't quite ready to handle the grueling schedule, exhaustion, etc (hence the injuries).  This year, we sought out to make this training process easy, strong, and injury free, how it should be.  We are getting smarter. :)  

Here is what I've figured out:
The most important step to a successful training plan is consistency.  I don't know about you, but in the past, when I would take a break from running or working out, and then I got back into workout mode, I would tend to overdo it a bit.  This meant I was exhausted and incredibly sore. Keeping a consistent schedule helps with gradually increasing momentum, speed, distance, and weight.  It's important to not increase too much weight or add too much distance before your body is physically capable of doing so, because this can quickly lead to injury.  

The next step to a successful training plan is dedication.  Believe you me, I get it.  Life is busy.  Always.  But you know what? It always will be.  For me, I am guaranteed to be swamped for the next 5 years while I pursue my PT Doctorate.  But honestly, then what? I bet I'll be just as busy.  Make the time for yourself, you are worth it.  Write your plan in a calendar, and abide by it.  If you struggle with making those commitments, tell someone about your plan, or get a training partner.  This will help make you accountable.  People joke about how often we all post on Facebook when we are at the gym... but seriously, if I am going to post that I am at the track at 4:00 am, I am sure going to complete that run! 

If you struggle with keeping yourself focused and dedicated, a training partner can be a tremendous asset.  It is easier to do something when you have a friend with you.  But while you want a friend there, you want someone who is going to push you, and call you out when you are being lazy (i.e. "drill Sargent").  I would be no where without mine!  I would most definitely not get up at 4:00 am to run if there wasn't someone waiting for me at the track.  I often look at my phone hoping she would have cancelled, realize she didn't, get my ass out of bed and dressed and head over there, and there she is, telling me she had hoped I would have cancelled on her as well! But, since we both had someone waiting for us and making us accountable for the workout, we are successful in our training for that day.  The hardest part about completing the early morning run is getting out of bed, especially if it is dark and cold (or scalding hot, as it can be in Arizona).  But by the time you get running, you eventually wake up and feel happy that you completed the run.  4:00 am will never be "easy."  However, I have never regretted a workout. I always feel better, have a clearer mind, and feel the release of stress and anxiety almost immediately

Likewise, if your training partner is out of town or is sick, you have to take that extra step to go by yourself, and show up. Takes a little extra willpower. :)

Back to scheduling.  This year, as my schedule has continuously gotten more demanding, we have had to get a bit more creative with scheduling.  We were already pretty limited on when we could train together, so we truly had to rack our brains to figure out how to get everything worked in.  This has actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it's meant that we had to focus on dedicating non-negotiable, set times to keep on track.  We have decided that this training season is going to utilize doubles.  That is, working out twice in one day.

You might say you hardly have time for even one work out, let alone two in the same day, but if you break your workouts up into two, that's less time you need to spend in one sitting.  Workout in the morning before work and then complete the second one on your lunch break.  Or do a shorter workout on your lunch break, and then another one that afternoon or after dinner.  This type of planning frees you up for all of the "distractions" that might otherwise hinder your progress.  You can back to work, get home to make dinner, do the laundry, feed the pets, help the kids with homework, etc.  The beauty of this schedule is this is also giving our body some much needed downtime with dedicated rest days.

I think this is going to be the best plan for a dedicated, successful training program leading up to this race.  And honestly, I think it's going to be more effective. To remind you, this is what our half marathon training schedule consists of:

For the 12 weeks leading up to the race, we will complete:
  • 1 long run
  • 1 short pace/tempo run (25-75% of the long run distance)
  • 1 speed work/interval training run (10-30 min total, depending on the race distance that week)
  • 2-3 days of cross-training (weight/resistance training, Zumba, elliptical, stairclimber, yoga, water jogging, etc)
Tentative game plan:
Sunday: Long run
Monday: early am cardio cross-training/weight training, and then a long leg workout that evening
Tuesday: REST
Wednesday: early am run, and then weight training that afternoon 
Thursday: REST
Friday: Speedwork/interval training
Saturday: REST

I really like the three run workout plan, as it really seemed to work best for us, as previous plans we had tried to follow were based around running almost every single day, with no weight/cross-training days included.  It was easy to fall behind schedule if you were sick or tired, which got frustrating and lead to a lack of focus and confidence.  Even following the three run plan last fall, we still didn't give ourselves enough time to rest in between workouts. Performing split workouts (i.e. working separate muscle groups each day) makes it easy to over train and makes it difficult to truly give your muscles, joints, and mind a much needed rest to repair itself.  

As we were formulating our grand plan of double workout days, I started to wonder if there were any fitness professionals who warned against this tactic.  I was happily surprised to find many articles published online that actually promoted this concept! Some benefits listed were:
  • Rest playing a solid role in the workout plan has been proven to give results.  Working a muscle before it's had time to repair itself can actually break it down faster and weaken it.  
  • Working out twice in one day will burn more calories, curb your hunger*, and work your muscles double time.  It also provides added energy and makes you sleep like a baby (Zzzz).
  • Schedule the doubles with enough recovery/downtime in between - i.e. early morning and evening - with plenty of time to rest and consume the right recovery nutrients - i.e. carbohydrates and protein.
  • Schedule the morning workout as cardio and strength training later in the day, if possible.  The strength training will be less caloric burn, however it will be focused and you'll see more results.  
  • Advantage: workouts can be shorter and more focused, meaning you're more likely to push yourself to get the most out of your time.  Another benefit: Everyone has time for 30 minutes! Very few people can justify a several hour workout each day (nor is it physically possible, depending on the schedule).
  • Another advantage: Boost in metabolism! I don't know about you, but I wake up starving at 4 am, even when I ate a lot the night before.  My metabolism gets to a point where it is on fire and I am scrambling to keep up with it.  I would much rather have this problem than the opposite!  
  • Follow a plan of every other day with a full day of rest in between.  

* I actually disagree with this statement: When I have a double, I am actually a lot hungrier as my metabolism speeds up.  I will say this: each workout requires a different fuel and a different amount of recovery food.  I definitely feel and need more protein post weight-lifting than I do when I finish a short run or cross-training.  It's all about figuring out what works. 

What kind of training plan works best for you?


Thursday, August 22, 2013

This is hard for me to admit, but I realize that this behavior needs to stop now.

I have a knack for biting off more than I can chew.  I've been this way for the majority of my adulthood, although looking back at my high school years, I'm pretty sure I was an offender even back then.  My propensity for taking on too much accelerated in college when I was balancing an 18-21 credit class load each semester with design projects, theater lab commitments, a job serving tables, teaching dance classes, and performing with a belly dance troupe. The schedule was maddening, but it became something I was comfortable with as I figured out how to handle it, or so I thought. When I graduated from CSULB, I was rocking an 8 cup of coffee per day habit, and had bronchitis for almost 8 weeks. Try and kick an 8 cup habit cold-turkey, I dare you.  I vowed never to do that again.

After I moved to Arizona, my life changed dramatically.  I worked one job, and suddenly I had time for myself. I found myself sitting at home a lot, and surprisingly a little depressed by doing so.  Suddenly, my life had lost a little of it's meaning, and I felt lost. I didn't quite understand why I was feeling this way, but I had forgotten how to just take time to relax. I quickly started looking for activities to fill my time, which is why I think I found such an interest in health and fitness. Running and working out gave me a hobby that would not only fill up some of my downtime, but would make me a healthier, happier person. Today, these activities are something that I need to stay sane!

It's been 3 weeks since I left my job at Insight and every waking moment has been dedicated to something! I thought I was going to have some time to relax before everything ramped up, however my schedule quickly filled with training for the position I took on at Phoenix College, studying for the insurance exam for my work on the side, or training for the insurance position at American Income. At first, I was excited at the schedule because I began thinking, Yes! This is what I'm good at! But as I started sleeping less, and began too busy and swamped to even leave my desk to eat dinner or go for the run, I started feeling miserable. School hadn't even started yet! As the stress continued to build up, I suddenly lost sight of the balance and schedule I had mastered previously.  As a result, my GI track was distraught and I was suffering from horrible tension headaches that would not seem to go away.

When I am done with all of my training, things might calm down a bit. However, the reality is that they probably won't. When I'm finally setting my own work schedule and not dependent on the training schedule of others, my classes will have progressed with more requirements and deadlines, and my half marathon training will have amped up as well. I need to work, in order to pay the bills, as much as I would love to go to school full time and not focus on anything else.  I need to run and work out, because it keeps my shoulders loose and helps relieve the tension in my neck and shoulders, as well as providing an immediate stress release. I need to find time to spend with my out of state family and friends, who I can't afford to visit right now, but miss terribly. And most importantly, I need to have time to spend with my loving and supportive boyfriend, who's schedule is almost as busy as mine.

So where am I going with all of this?

It's true that I am a repeat offender when it comes to taking on too much, but I am the most guilty when it comes to stressing about things that haven't even happened yet. This stress manifests in week long tension headaches, stomach and emotional distress, and the inability to fall or stay asleep. Ordinarily, especially since I exercise, I sleep like a rock.  Right now, I've struggled with shutting my brain off, which makes it hard to unwind to fall asleep, or even get a massage.  I have an incredibly hard time living in the moment and focusing on one problem at a time, instead of thinking of my "to-do" list or what I need to get at the grocery store.

What am I really afraid of?
  • Do I really think that if I am so busy, my boyfriend will leave me or look for someone else?
  • Do I really think anyone is going to let me starve if I can't afford groceries?
  • Do I really think I will fail and that I am out of my league? Will I ever not second-guess my ability and my academic success? Do I think that if I am not perfect, that this entire endeavor is for nothing?
  • Do I really think my family will not love me if I cannot make it home for the holidays?
These are illogical, paranoid fears.  I have devoted the majority of my adult live to pushing myself, and I have forgotten to teach myself how to relax. For every push forward, there must be a pull back. It honestly makes me really sad, because I am incredibly hard on myself and find myself worrying about the "what-ifs" before they even reach the horizon. This stops now. I deserve more than that.

I have started looking into the causes of stress on the body, and I have found some really interesting facts.

What is interesting, and actually a little shocking:
  • 43% of adults suffer from adverse health effects relating to stress.  In fact, 75-90% of all office visits can be attributed to stress related causes and ailments.
  • Stress causes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration $300 billion annually.
  • Stress symptoms may effect your health without you even realizing it.  Ex: Headache, insomnia, lack of productivity, fatigue.
  • More serious effects of stress on the body: diabetes, infertility, susceptibility to infection,  high blood pressure and heart problems.
 I am young and healthy, and incredibly capable.  There is no reason to internalize this much stress, especially before I even need to.  There are much bigger problems out there, and I am fortunate not to have to worry about them. My boyfriend, friends, and family love and support me, and they will be there when I am done with this 5 year venture. I will complete this and come out better and stronger (and probably skinnier, if I keep using working out/running as my stress release. :) )

I am going to make a concerted effort to add relaxation into my daily routine.  While I cannot possibly take on another class, I can take the time to take a deep breath, go for a walk, meditate, do a little yoga.  I am going to start with yoga and see if I can come up with a sequence to start my day off each morning.

The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Legs, legs, legs

Some people hate leg day at the gym.  Personally, I love it.  Perhaps that is because I grew up with a badonk so I'm a little used to having a little more power in my lower extremities.  But I also love watching how strong my legs are getting! There has been a pretty big transformation in my legs since I started running. While there are still areas of improvement (outer and inner thighs), I've learned to stop hating my thighs.
(I've come a long way since this happened: http://abbyduval.blogspot.com/2012/05/learning-to-love-my-thighs.html)

I decided that having hips and an ass was ok, but if they were going to be big they were going to be strong.  So that's my goal.

Here is the current plan of attack, one day a week:

  • 15-20 min of cardio, usually speed intervals on the stair climber (FAST)
Then, 3 sets of 10 with the following:
  • Sumo squats in the rack- once we increased the weight past 40lbs, we moved over the cage out of safety.  I felt like a big girl moving to that part of the gym! Currently at 85lbs- quads, calves, and core
  • Leg press - resistance press - currently at 200lbs and about to increase* - quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves
  • Leg curls - currently at 60lbs for both legs (30 if doing seperately) - hamstrings
  • Deadlifts - currently at 60lbs but about to increase  - hamstrings, glutes, quads, adductor, and lower back.
*Christi noticed this was more than the majority of the guys who used the machines after us that night, as they were only pressing 45. We were feeling a little smug...

And then.. squats, squats, squats!
  • Side squats - alternating side to side - inner/outer thighs
  • Jump squats - honestly, I kind of hate these. My heart rate starts racing and I'm out of breath after each set. This is all a good thing, but I like to complain nonetheless. - quads and calves - the plyometric workout also aids in fat burning
  • Split Squat / Alternating lunges - currently doing these while holding 15lb barbells. This seems light, but it really isn't.  Moving this up to 17 or 20 next week. - quads, glutes, and hamstrings 
  • Plie squats holding a disc weight (currently at 10lbs) 10 second hold at end of last rep in plie position (calves permitting) - glutes, hips, inner thighs
(Often each set has plank holds in between just for kicks).

Usually, this workout is done at the beginning of the week. This gives my body some time to rest over the weekend, so everything is ready to move forward for the next week.  Last week, due to some scheduling conflicts (i.e. we were hungover on Monday), this workout got moved to the end of the week (Thursday night). This meant that the major leg workout went after a sprint workout, sandwiched between two running days.  This meant for really tired legs and one of the most difficult runs EVER on Friday am. But, I pushed forward and vowed never to do that again. This also meant for angry calves, so I had some trouble with holding my plies and using the leg curl machine (this is supposed to be for hamstrings, but you rest the bar right behind the ankles so the calves assist in the rep.). My calves were tightening and I got scared of a charlie horse.  Did.Not.Like.This.

Each week we have a sprint workout, either standalone on the treadmill at lunch, or as part of one of the runs on the track.  Doing sprint intervals on the track is visually easier, because you can sprint the straight sides and then calmly run the curves (you don't want to sprint the curves because you will run awkwardly on your feet and this can cause injury).  Treadmill can be easier on the mind when you are feeling a little extra tired and need a little extra boost to keep going. I am not a huge fan of the treadmill, because I feel like sometimes I go slower than I need to, and I notice it is easier to lose the natural form because your ground is propelling you, rather than your own body. But with it being summer, I have to pick my battles, as I cannot stomach 4:00am more than 2 times a week (and lunchtime or late morning runs are just too brutal to handle).

Wednesday, I noticed for the first time that I was feeling a little bit of pain in my lumbar spine/lower back while I was sprinting. It wasn't a bad pain and it didn't continue when I was done running, but it was enough to make me notice it and wonder why it was happening. When I sprint I like to envision myself as one of those crazy fast Olympic runners, although I realize the actual reality of what I look like is probably not nearly as glamorous. Lucky for me, there isn't a mirror at the track. :)

Lower back pain while running can be caused by a couple of different things:
1. Weak/inefficient Gluteous Maximus muscles:

Weak or inhibited muscles in the glutes means that your legs can't swing with the full motion that they are capable of.  The body has to find a way to compensate for this, so this can lead to running with an extended or hiked back to get that extra range of motion in order to propel forward at high speed.  

2. The Psoas Muscle
The Psoas muscle is a muscle that crosses across the front of the hip joint and aides in helping the hip flex forward.  This basically fights the glutes during the running process as one is constantly trying to pull your leg forward while the other is pulling it back. When this is tight, it can lead to arched back compensation.

While I certainly do not think I have weak glutes, I did notice my hamstrings were pretty tight even after the weekend off. Likely this meant that my hip flexors/glutes were tight as well and trying to compensate for my hamstrings.  It's likely that the discomfort I was feeling was due to the fact that it really needed stretching before I started the run, leading to the sensitivity in my lower back during the sprints.  I will have to make sure I start a better stretching routine the night before and morning of my sprint workouts.  I've also read that my upper body needs to be stretched as well, as the arm swing is equally important while sprinting. 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Round 2.

It's been quite awhile since I've posted on here, because life has been so crazy.  I am feeling the need to organize my thoughts though, so here it goes.

Up until this point, this blog has been about my struggles.  Learning to run, learning to overcome injury, learning to run through energy, learning what I can eat, what my diet will allow.  From this point forward, it's Round Two.  As things are starting to fall into place, I have more focus and dedication than ever. This is going to be spot where I can truly make a reference of all the things I learn, my favorite workouts, my favorite recipes, as well as a place to be joyous about the victories. This is also about Round 2 in my life:

I made a decision this year to go back to school to finish prerequisites to apply for a doctorate program in Physical Therapy.  All in all, if everything goes "as planned," I am looking at 5 years of school (which I started a month ago). This is possibly one of the most daunting and terrifying decisions I have ever made, but I am so ecstatic and ready for this change. I do realize that there will be days that I will question this decision, but I am thrilled at the challenge.

The past couple of years have been a trying experience at "getting into shape," and pushing myself towards a goal I once thought wasn't achievable. However, it was truly a learning experience and has changed the person I am today.  Fitness and health are no longer these pipe dreams in my head of things I wish I could have.  Running a mile is no longer a pipe dream.  Learning to eat on a restricted diet is achievable, and hell, I can still get enough protein (people are worried) to fuel 5-7 workouts a week.
You are not defined by your weaknesses.  You must turn those weaknesses into strengths.

Every single time I was injured over the past couple of years, or thrown some type of nutritional challenge or a combination of both, the research involved with figuring out and solving the problem was fascinating.  Learning how the human body works, how it all works together, and how we effect it with every single move we make and food/drink we consume (or don't), is fascinating.  It has made me want to learn more, not only to prevent things from happening, but because I want to help others as well. I can't wait to learn more and to become a resource for others to help them through their struggles, and ideally become a resource to those who need assistance before the injury/issue even happens.

As my life amps up, I'm realizing that I need to stay organized and I need to stay focused.  The other day, I referred to my life as "constant multi-tasking," because that's how I really feel right now:
  • I currently work 40 hours per week, starting at 6:30am.
  • I am currently enrolled in summer school, which is two classes, and since they are condensed, they are very full time. In August, it's school full time and work part time.
  • Due to my dietary restrictions, I am almost always either planning my food, grocery shopping/recipe searching, preparing my food for the time being or for the meals the next day, and logging my food. (This is also in part due to the fact that I am pretty much always hungry).
  • I am working out. I work out 5-7 times per week, ranging from 25 - 90 min each time.
I'm pretty much working 4 full time jobs. :) (P.S. I have an amazing boyfriend, 2 cats, friends, and family in there too...)

I'm so far succeeding at this, because I really feel that they are all equally as important to my overall health and well being.  It is super easy to lose focus and to change my priorities, but it's a matter of making the time.  There is always time.  Even when you are tired or unmotivated, you will find the time and energy once you get out of bed and show up.  I feel like it is a vicious cycle: If I do not work out, I do not sleep well. If I do not sleep well, I am tired, unfocused, and often gain weight and retain stress.  If all of these things occur, my stomach generally gets set off by the stress and I am miserable. This makes for misery and lack of focus in school and work, and literally no happy times with my friends and family and the people I want to be happy around.  It is a slippery slope.
If you are not sleeping, and you are facing a lot of stress and anxiety, I challenge you to workout a little bit every day.  You will sleep and your body will be forced to release some of the tension.

Heading into a full time school schedule and trying to balance the rest, I am incredibly dedicated to keeping my fitness routine in check. If I am sitting at a computer all day and all night, I know what the tension will do to my head and neck, so it's important to keep all of that moving.  I am also hell bent on running the P.F. Changs Half Marathon in January and am determined to enjoy all 13.2 miles of it! If I keep a regimented schedule, then come training season in the fall, (in theory) my body won't be completely shocked at the momentum of adding in the additional strength training, cross training, and additional mileage.  (Last year, by the time I got to the race, I was so tired and sore, mentally exhausted, my stomach was retaliating at every chance it could, I was injured, and I was ready for the race to be over).  The "fun" is the race! It's the reward for all the hard work and training.

Here's what's been working so far for a workout schedule:
  • Running: 2-3 times/week, with 1-2 miles of sprint interval training.  (Wednesday early am plus 1-2 lunch break runs on the treadmill). We are working on adding additional mileage, but running into a scheduling conflict with the Arizona summer sun. 
  • Cross training: Zumba! (Tuesday nights)
  • Weight training: Legs (Monday nights), arms (2 lunch time workouts/week, 1 bicep/tricep and the other chest/arm/back/shoulders)
  • Abwork.  Right now 1 lunchtime workout/week but am trying to figure out a way to get it in 3x/week integrated into other workouts). Strong core means everything else is stable, so I really need to get this one worked out.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

I am a runner... (?)

Over the past couple of years, I have started collecting all sorts of running clothes, shoes, water bottles, compression socks, racing bibs, and sports tape... more than I ever thought I would.  In my closet, I currently have two pairs of running shoes, a pair of cross training shoes, and a pair of trail runner hiking shoes.  Two or three years ago, there would have been maybe one pair of athletic shoes in there, maybe.

If someone asks, or it came up in conversation, I would say that "I run" (which used to be "Ha! I try to run" or "I jog slowly").  However, I never considered myself a "runner."  

True, I go to the gym 5 days a week.  I run 2-3 days a week, depending on the week, my schedule, how I'm feeling, etc.  But I never run that far (the farthest length I have run since our Half Marathon is 6 miles, and typically run 2-3). I also have 6 racing bibs from the past year and a half, and by the end of January, I'll have 8-10.  I'm not sure exactly what in my mind would define being a runner.  Perhaps it's because I've never run a marathon? Or maybe because I don't compete for time, but rather just run to run and finish the distance?

And then, on April 15th, the Boston Marathon bombing attack occurred.  One of my first thoughts was, do you know how hard those people work to get to that race?? The night before, I had just been reading an article in Runner's World magazine, with a big story on the Boston Marathon.  Just to qualify to compete in this marathon, you have to have the following times:

To put this in perspective, in November, I ran my HALF in 2.5 hours.  They are running double the distance.  These people are runners.  

When I was at the gym that night, all I could think about was the people who qualified for the race, maybe for the first time, and then couldn't finish.  Or the people who finished, and lost a limb, and may never race again.  Or the people who were there, and may be fearful to ever cross the finish line again, afraid of what may happen.  All I wanted to do at this point was go out and run.  I wanted to go and run for those people who would never race again.  I wanted to train for a full 26.2 marathon, because these people are inspirations for me to keep going.  

The next morning, I received an email about a new blog post on the "No Meat Athlete" website.  Matt is a vegan marathon runner training for his first ultra.  He wrote this amazing post on what it means to be a runner (his blog post can be found here).  This man had run 6 marathons and still didn't consider himself a runner until he felt the emotions as a runner, watching what happened to the Boston Marathon.  Suddenly, I realized that he took the words right out of my mouth! 

For the first time, I started thinking of myself as a runner.  

Running is hard, and can be grueling on your body, and exhausting, but I NEVER regret doing it. I feel exhilarated and energetic, and proud of what I completed.  It's emotional.  It's a stress reliever and incredibly therapeutic.  Only another runner can truly understand it.  It's become a part of who I am, and I am proud to be apart of the community.

And now, because this makes me laugh, I leave you with this:

Friday, April 5, 2013

The 5 Day Juice Fast

This past week I did a 5 day juice fast.  Last year I did a 3 day juice fast, and seeing as how I am equiped with a fancy blender and an actual juicer this time, I figured I could handle the 5 days. 

I had been integrating a lot more juices into my diet, but with the past couple of months of sickness, injury due to coughing my ribs out of place, and lack of exercise (from the rib pain), I was feeling pretty awful.  I have been looking for a kick start to get back to the place I want to be from a health and fitness perspective, so juicing seemed to be the best way to start.  Here's a few reasons why: 
  • Juicing can strengthen your immune system.
  • Juicing can regulate your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
  • Juicing can give you a more efficient digestive system.
  • Juicing can give you clear, smooth, hydrated skin.
  • Juicing can give you energy and vitality, and honestly aids in clearer thinking.
  • Juicing feeds every cell in your body with water, vitamins, minerales, and essential enzymes.
  • Added bonus: Juicing can aid in weight loss and assist in dropping water weight while flushing the system.
My timing was impecable; the day before I started my throat started hurting AGAIN.  I about panicked, since starting a juice cleanse and requiring antibiotics don't necessarily go hand in hand.  I was determined not to need it.  I am happy to say that I warded off this cold without being loaded on medicine all week! I was able to fight it with sleep, lots of vitamins, and all of my fruit/vegetable juices.  Guess my immune system is starting to get a little better. :)

The awesome thing about juicing is the sheer amount of fruits and vegetables you consume on a daily basis.  While you aren't getting all the fiber you normally would with normal consumption, or even blending into smoothies, juicing is an immediate fit of a TON of amazing, natural sources of vitamins, and in turn, energy.  I would dare say that the juice is more effective than drinking a cup of coffee (and you know I loooove my coffee...). It would be impossible to eat that many fruit and vegetables in one sitting.

That being said, while some people do their cleanses 10 days, or even a month, I don't think it's incredibly healthy or good for your digestive track to consume a liquid diet for that long.  I did long for protein and to chew normal foods. 

So... juicing!

This was all of the produce I bought on Sunday for 3 days worth of juice.
In my cart: carrots, celery, cucumber, romaine lettuce, zucchini, parsley, kale, mint, ginger, kiwi, oranges, pears, apples, limes, blueberries, and strawberries.

My plan of attack was to aim for 3 juices a day (which grew into 4).  My first juice of the day I would blend up with a banana and some added natural protein: hemp seeds, chia seeds, and spirulina powder.  I would juice 2 days in advance, and then jar it up in the fridge:

Day One:
I woke up hungry.  Seriously? Not a good sign.  Drank my protein smoothie and shockingly stayed full until 11.  Yay! But could someone really be this addicted to caffeine? I was seriously foggy and forgetful, and the caffeine withdrawl headache was starting to hit. On top of it, I was starting to really feel sick (achy, tired, swollen throat) and I was starting to wonder which symptom was what. I was also irritible.  Seriously? I haven't had coffee, please don't bother me with that. Went for a walk in the park that afternoon, which distracted me from wanting to eat.  Drank lots of water.
Note: The first couple of days of juicing are ROUGH. Your body is confused, and as you detox, it is not uncommon to feel flu-like symptoms (achiness, headache, etc).  Sicne my sore throat started the night before, I knew it wasn't related, sadly. :(

Day Two:
I made it through day one! I only worked for part of the day, since I was really feeling bad by this point.  I went home to sleep off sickness, drinking my juices between naps.  Had a tiny bit of miso soup (broth only) to help out my system and then went back to bed.

Day Three:
Starting to feel so much better! It's amazing what sleep can do! But, since I was sick the day before, I did not have time to blend any of my juices with any protein.  As a result, my juices did not stick to my system very well, and I was starting to feel the hunger.  Bad.  It became very apparent that I was going to need to juice more juices than my original plan.  Decided to run on the treadmill at lunch.  Two exciting things!:

1. I did not even think about my ribcage once. I realized this after I ran, and I got very excited. This is huge progress since my rib alignment has been keeping me at the chiropractor 2-3 times a week for the past month or so.
2. I had a ton of energy! I expected the run to be so much harder.

Note: There are mixed reviews about exercising while on a juice fast.  The general concensious is that if you feel up to it, light exercise is good for you.  However, pretty much everyone agrees that you should skip the weight training or any intense cardio, because you are not eating enough amino acids to protect your muscles.  The last thing I need is angry muscles, so I listened to this wisely.

Day Four:
This is the first day that I really felt like myself. I woke up and my mind was very clear. I was in a better mood. I felt energized and was very excited that I was over the hump and almost done!  We decided to hike after work... the hike was great. The desert was blossoming and gorgeous. I was full of energy and powered up hills.  The moment I got in the car to return home, however, was a different story. Suddenly I was RAVENOUS. Like I couldn't focus on anything but food.  At this point, if I had been doing this cleanse alone, I might have caved in.  But since I wasn't, I went home and chugged a juice and instantly felt better.  Then I had a bunch of miso soup.  Not many calories there, but it was warm and it fooled my stomach into thinking I was really consuming more.  Good deal, time for bed.
Note to self: Do not do that again.

Day Five:
Halleluyah, it's day 5! And it's Friday!  I made the decision on Thursday night that Friday night was going to be a small, light dinner.  It's important to ease your body back into real food so it doesn't mess with your stomach, digestion, and overall feeling.  If I gorge, I will pay for it in many ways.  Smoothie for breakfast, juice for lunch and snack.. Salad for dinner.  I've earned it.   :)

I learned some important lessons during this cleanse:
  • It is amazing how good I feel after I drink my juice.  Not only do I feel healthy, I feel clear headed and energized, and it's all from a natural, plant source.
  • For a vegetarian diet, I really don't eat enough fruits and vegetables! I thought I did, but this was an awakening to how little I actually get on a daily basis.
  • My 3 cups of coffee per day dependency has to stop.  It's too dehydrating.  I LOVE COFFEE. I truly enjoy drinking it. But I should not NEED it and 1 cup in the morning should suffice (with the occasional afternoon treat).
  • You never know what foods your body really needs and wants, and what you can live without, until you can't have it. I thought I had truly realized this concept when I started my restricted diet, but a juice cleanse really brought those thoughts to fruition.
  • When I was starting to really crave foods, I wasn't craving crap. I didn't want potato chips, or greasy pizza, or pasta.  I wanted a salad with black beans and corn. I wanted tofu and brown rice.  I wanted hummus.  Namely, I wanted protein, but I wanted fresh, healthy foods.  I wasn't even tempted by the thought of chocolate, when ordinarily I would be.
  • I don't drink enough water, nor do I regularly take the vitamins I need to.  This was a great exercise at making that more of a priority.

I'm pretty sure that this is going to be a yearly ritual for me.  My gameplan for now is to have a great smoothie for breakfast (which I have been doing), a big salad for lunch, juice for snack (in lieu of coffee and salty snacks), and a good, healthy dinner. 

Here were some of my favorites!

*  *  *

Summertime Mojito
1 cucumber
1 pear
1 large handful mint
1/2 lime
(this doesn't make a lot, so I suggest doubling it)

*  *  *

Zucchini Juice
2 lg zucchini
2 apples (I used green)
1c spinach
1 lime
2c parsley
(this was surprisingly sweet and delicious!)

*  *  *

Mean Green Juice
6 kale leaves
1 cucumber
4 celery stalks
2 green apples
1 lemon
1" fresh ginger
(If you've seen the documentary "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead," this is the one they use)

*  *  *

Minty Fresh Berry Juice
2c blueberries
2 kiwi
16 strawberries
2c mint leaves
1/4 pineapple (optional, I had to omit)
(Berries can stick in your juicer, but if you turn this into a smoothie, it's delicious!)

*  *  *

Blue Green Lemonade
3 kale leaves
1 cucumber
2 pears
1/2c blueberries
1 lemon

*  *  *

Very Berry Elixir
1c strawberries
1c raspberries
1/2c blackberries
1/2c blueberries
1 cucumber

*  *  *

Citrus Surprise with Ginger
1 orange (or 2 clementines), peeled
3 strawberries
1 lemon
2 large carrotes
1/2" fresh ginger
(Yum! Tart. I also suggest doubling this one)

*  *  *

Super Sinus Juice
1 large orange
1/2 lemon, peeled
1 medium sweet or tart apple (I used sweet)
1" fresh ginger
dash of cayenne pepper
(How fitting that this is immune boosting when I was sick? And ps, clears your sinuses!)