Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Break Up

My physical therapist effectively broke up with me yesterday – saying that I am progressing incredibly well and that I can increase the repetitions of my exercises. He gave me a blue (extra heavy) exercise band, which is progressively more resistance than my red or green bands.

I know that I have to pay him per visit.

I know that it is quite a trip from my house – especially just to do some stretches and run.

I know most of my stretches and the doctors gave me instructions for the “add ons”.

But still, it doesn’t feel good for the PT to say he doesn’t want to see me anymore. I have been going for almost three months. I know all their names and hobbies.

Plus, now I have to be my own motivator again. I don’t have anyone but myself and my PRs to hold me accountable for continuing to get better. And, it is terrible timing – I am already in a “I don’t want to go to the gym” rut.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sometimes Life Interferes

It has been hard for me to stay on schedule this week. Life often gets in the way. Last weekend was filled, so I was a little tired. Still, I managed to run almost 5 miles. This week, I had a memorial service for my dear Uncle. Yet, I managed two swims and short run. It is a little easier to fit my training into my life when I workout in the morning; even when evening and friend commitments come into play, the workout is already done. Still, I have several commitments for this weekend, which is interfering with my running and biking. I haven’t quite figured out a way to get it all done.

It is weeks like these that discourage me. In years past, a day off would turn into 2, which would turn into a week. So, now I worry that I will not be able to complete my training. That a few days off will really throw me off my game. I am especially disheartened when I look at my current kilometer count – totaling about 366 kilometers.

Walking – 86 km
Running – 118 km
Biking – 130 km
Swimming – 32 km

Then, I think about the training I have been able to accomplish. I have already biked more, swam more and run more than last year. I am in much better shape this year, probably in some of the best shape of my life. I have a couple of major things going on this year that are slightly intimidating, terrifying and exciting. Missing a day or two, here or there can’t hurt me. My goal of 2011 km and this blog should help me get back on track. I know I can be ready!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Exercises YOU Should Be Doing!

Yesterday, I had a PT appointment. I have finished therapy for my foot. Now, I am working on this pain in my mid-back when I run. It used to be terrible after running just a few minutes. Now I can run closer to 3 miles without it bothering me too much.

The wonderful people at Harborview have given me a few shoulder and core strengthening exercises:

Pelvic Neutrals – it’s a lower abs exercise – lying flat on your back and using only you ab muscles (not your hips) try to get your back to be completely flat. Basically, you pull your abs up and in, with no other body movement. Once you get good at this, you will be able to do when you’re standing (or running) to alleviate any pressure on your back.

“Dead Bugs” – another abs exercise – Begin by lying on back, knees up and bent at 90 degrees. Tighten your abs in the position for pelvic neutrals, so your back is flat on the floor/mat through the entire exercise. Take the arms straight up overhead, without arching your back. Slowly lower the right arm and left leg towards the floor while keeping the lower back on the floor. Bring them back and then repeat with the left arm and right leg. THIS WILL BE HARD at first. Consider the same exercise with the feet on the floor. Begin with 1 set of 10reps and try to move to 3 sets of 10reps. It looks something like this – the key is to keep your back flat, NO ARCHING.

“BlackBurns” – lying on your stomach, with your hands by your sides, palm on the mat. Pinch your shoulders back, sort of pushing out your chest and raise your arms. Hold this pose for 6 seconds. Repeat this move for 1-3 sets of 10.

“No Monies” – you will need a resistance band for this one. Holding the resistance band taught in your hands, pinch your shoulders back – pushing out your chest. Then, keeping your elbows at your side, pull your hands apart stretching the resistance band. Hold this pose for about 5sec. Increase from 1 set of 10 reps to 3 sets as your strength improves. (This will make a whole lot more sense if you can imagine yourself responding to someone who has just asked you for money, when you don’t have any.)

I didn’t realize it at the time, but these exercises are making me a stronger runner and a stronger swimmer. They also help me keep a better position on the bike. I have a lot of tension in my shoulders and tend to keep them clenched and raised. If you’re anything like me, try to do these exercises every other day or so, and I think you will notice some improvement.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Swim Training – Does size matter?

Pools come in many sizes. My gym has several locations – most have a pool and they are all different lengths: 25 meter, 25 yards, and a very tiny 20 yard pool. The smallest pool is closest to my house; I started out going there most often. The 25m pool is outdoors in the summer. The first time I swam, a mile was almost undoable. After a few days, I became used to the length and it was the thought of swimming in the tiny pool that was undoable.

Yesterday, I went to a 50m pool. I was very nervous; I could barely swim a mile the last time I changed distances. Instead of being insecure about it I jumped in the water. I set off to swim at least 22 laps. It was actually easier that I thought (well, except for the woman who was doing water aerobics in the middle of the lane). I made it in about an hour.

I love the 50 meter pool! I have more water to practice my swimming stroke and focus on becoming an efficient swimmer. With fewer turnarounds, it simulates open water swimming better than the shorter pools. Plus, I don’t have to do nearly as many flip turns. I am not very good at flip turns. I usually mess up and have to stop swimming. I can go twice as far and still practice the flip turns. My abs thank me, but my swimming technique does not. The swimming is a little bit more challenging – but I feel like I am going much faster, because I am counting 100s instead of 50s.

Now, if only I had a view like this.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Morning Workouts

I love swimming in the morning. The pool opens early and it is not crowded (who wants to share a lane?). I was heading to the gym at least 3 mornings a week. Then I read this Active Post listing 5 reasons to work out in the morning, which confirmed why I wake up at 5 in the morning and head to the gym. I read a few more posts about the benefit of working out in the mornings:

- You WILL actually DO IT and do it more often because it is easier to start a routine. Afternoon and evening workouts get bumped for happy hours and dinners with friends.

- The feeling of ACCOMPLISHMENT from completing a workout will be with you for the entire day. You’ll have the energy from the workout and the motivation because you can check one thing off your to do list.

- You will EAT BETTER; we make better choices throughout the entire day after we have burned several hundred calories.

Getting the energy to work out in the morning is not easy, and I generally like mornings. Here are a few tips for those who need motivation in the morning.

- Start on a Monday. For me, Monday breaks the normal weekend routine and is the start of my work week. Accomplishing the first workout gives me the inspiration to wake up on Tuesday (Plus, there is no "I'll do it tomorrow excuse").

- Wake up at the same time each morning. Setting the alarm for the same time is the perfect way to create a workout habit. It will become easier and easier, until you will begin to wake up before your alarm.

- Pack your bag the night before. Set out your work-out clothes including socks and your headband. Pack the bag with everything you need: water bottle, towel, shower stuff (& goggles and swim cap for me). Preparing makes the morning routine run a a little smoother and the time for the alarm be a little later.

- Do something you LOVE! Especially in the beginning, your morning workout should be one that you enjoy. That’s why I swim – It is my absolute favorite thing to do. It’s a whole body workout that relaxes me, yet I feel stronger when I am done. If you like running, wake up and run.

- Don’t give up. You aren’t going to get there every morning and that is ok. I miss a workouts, but I get up the next day and try again.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


The other day, I was talking to my sister about a new work out program at the gym. I was nervous – and still am about attending the first class. It is a “tri-club”; Thursdays workouts involve both a 45 min swim, with a coach and a 45 minute spin class. When thinking about starting something new, my mind starts spinning.

I want to be able to do these things. I inquire about the details. I sign up. I pay the money. But, when the time comes, I have this anxious – “I don’t think I can do it moment” and I want to quit. As evident in the title of this blog, I develop some insecurity. It is at those moments, I say to myself, “this seemed like such a good idea three months ago”.

I know am physically strong enough to complete them. Sometimes, I am just not mentally strong enough.

I have been told that much of running is a mental game. I find that same thing to be true in all my workouts. I have a training schedule that is completely achievable. Yet, the workouts intimidate me. I have reached the point where I am approaching new limits. When I head to the pool – my goal is 2.25 km. I have never swum that far at one time. The same is true for running; yesterday was my longest run ever – 4.5 miles. Even though, I have my longest bike ride was about 40 miles, I am intimidated by a few of my group rides because I don’t want to be last and I don’t want to hold anyone back.

I am prepared. My legs know they can run 4.5 miles. My hips and shoulders know I can swim 2 km. But, as I approach the pool, my mind tells a totally different story. While I am working out, I will think of a million reasons why I could quit.

My sister’s response was, “Stop being so insecure, it is boring”. This hurt my feelings at first. Then I read this blog about Strength and Confidence. Today, however, I have decided to make it my mantra.

I don’t want to be boring OR insecure. I am going to a tri club meeting. I am going to run 5 miles next Saturday. Instead of worrying that I can’t do it. I am going to focus on the sense of achievement which will herald a new level of confidence. This confidence shall overpower my insecurity.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

March Kilometer Update

In January, I walked, biked, ran or swam 76.75 km.

In February: 118.16 km.

In March, I did almost as much as January and February combined – 146.58km.

As of April 1, 2011, three months have elapsed and my total kilometer count is 341.48, leaving slightly under 1700 remaining.

I am25% of the way through the year, yet still have 83% of my kilometers to go.

At least I am moving in the right direction; each month, I check off more kilometers than the month before.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chocolate Milk

This may not be news to you, but it's relatively new news to me. I thought that I should share as summer training schedules really get underway.

In 2006, the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism completed a study about using Chocolate Milk as a recovery drink for athletes, specifically cyclists. They followed “healthy, non-smoking, highly-trained cyclists” monitoring their workouts and recovery time. Joel Stager tested the effects of Chocolate Milk, Fluid Recovery and Carbohydrate Recover drinks. The athletes cycled to exhaustion, then drank one of the drinks during recovery. Afterward, they cycled to exhaustion a second time. The study claims that "athletes who drank chocolate milk after an intense bout of exercise were able to work out longer and with more power during a second workout compared to athletes who drank commercial sports beverages."

Many magazines and news stations picked up the story. Fitness Magazine caught the story, but warned everyone from immediately switch to chocolate milk after light exercises. “A drink like chocolate milk is most useful to a cyclist, swimmer, or long-distance runner. These sports stress high endurance levels and constant, sustained movement. Competing athletes need high levels of calories, carbs, and protein to sustain that level of performance.”

Gatorade, on the other hand, was not as impressed with the study and has challenged the results. It was the fluid replacement drink referred to in the study and had results comparable to chocolate milk. The Gatorade company found the study a little misleading; “Gatorade which has less than one-third the calories of chocolate milk performed equally as well as chocolate milk” - and both performed better than carbohydrate replacement drinks.

I generally drink water while I am working out and after working out. I never really bought into the hype of fluid recovery or carbohydrate recovery drinks. Although, this year is the first year, I am actually training regularly and pushing myself to new limits every week. Chocolate milk fresh from the local farmer's market does seem to provide great motivation, much more than the sweet tropical punch Gatorade. It’s also important that we don’t forget water.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Running In Groups

I have new feelings toward running. I am getting stronger and I can run farther. Last Saturday, I ran 4 miles without stopping. It was the farthest I have ever run. Every Saturday during my training, I will be running the farthest I ever have. It is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

I was running with the ZOOMA Training Group. I can’t tell you how much running with a group makes a difference, especially when you are trying to push yourself. For some, it may be the group mentality that helps runners pushes themselves; no one wants to be the person who walks amongst the others who are running. For me, it is purely competition. I do not want to be last. I have found some great people through a MeetUp site. I have found sites for biking, hiking, and running. At first, I was intimidated. In many ways, I still am. All the same, running with people who are stronger than me has helped me improved my training. In the past three months, I have moved my running base from about 1 mile to 3 miles. I have increased my speed at the same time.

This philosophy does not work as well for me during race events. I spend a great deal of time trying to convince my friends to run in the events with me. I am genuinely excited to finish the race together. Yet, I regret that decision, as soon as the horn sounds for the beginning of a race. It is amazing to me that I may have become a stronger runner than some of my friends. The same people who were beating me last summer are the ones holding me back.

This year, I have done 3 5ks – so far, they have all been with Charm City Run.

Jan 1 – Resolution Run 5k – 36:23: I had a few setbacks with my foot and back. I still finished.

Feb 6 – Super Bowl 5k – 33:38: I ran with a friend, who wanted to walk a bit. It wasn’t until the second mile that I decided to just keep going on my own. It was hilly, and I walked a little here and there, but I was impressed myself with my improved my time.

March 13 – Kelly Shamrock 5k – 31:28: This was a mostly downhill course, but over 4000 runners. I could have done better if I had not had to dodge all the walkers and slower runners. I also had the same problem of being faster than my friend.

I struggle with running ahead of my friends because I feel like I am providing them the motivation the way my running partners helped me. Is it fair to leave that behind to shave off a few minutes on the clock? When is it appropriate to push forward for yourself and not the group?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon &10K

I am an ambassador for the ZOOMA Annapolis 10k and Half Marathon. It is perfect activity as I begin to embrace running. I am honored and excited. It is a great organization – the ZOOMA vision is to promote women’s and girls’ health and fitness by encouraging them to participate in a challenging and fun running event.

Gather your friends and coworkers and get a group together. I ran this 10k race last year; it is a beautiful, well designed course through downtown Annapolis. Even if you are not local, there are plenty of hotels in the area and it is a perfect place for a girls’ getaway weekend.

In an effort to get 4000 women participating in the event, this year, the Ambassador’s are leading training runs. Even if you are a little nervous, please come out to one of the Saturday Runs. These are no drop rides, and all paces are welcome. The training schedule is designed to build up mileage, so that everyone will be ready on RACE DAY! For more information and meet up locations – click here!

This year’s proceeds go to support the Got Your Back Network. GYBN works to help and support the families of our military heroes. GYBN works to bring some brightness, joy, comfort and encouragement to military families who feel adrift or are facing a difficult time in their lives. We offer military families dealing with the ultimate loss a way to see a brighter day through a variety of special events, activities, mentoring and guidance services.

If you have ever had any interest in a 10k or Half Marathon, I encourage all women to pick any of the ZOOMA races: Austin, Annapolis, Colorado Springs or Atlanta.

Friday, March 25, 2011

2011 is the year that I embrace RUNNING.

I have hated running; I am not good at it, nor do I find it enjoyable. I am only interested in it because I like the triathlons. The tri in triathlon stands for 3 sports - swim, bike, run. I like swimming and I like to bike, but that pesky running part kept getting in the way.

I am improving my running. A year ago at this time, I could barely do a mile in less than 12 minutes. When I go for a run, I have to push myself at every moment. It’s not my lungs that get tired, it is my mind. And then I begin looking for excuses – my foot begins to hurt, my back starts to spasm. I try music and friends, but still just cannot get my mind around running for miles. It can’t help, that I continually say, “I hate running”.

A few months ago, I started Physical Therapy with some wonderful people at Harborview Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy. They have a running clinic – where they do running evaluations to determine ways to improve running and avoid injuries.

I was running wrong. I had a low cadence and a very hard, loud heel strike. No wonder my foot hurts when I ran. No wonder I hated it. I was doing it all wrong.

In a few short months, I have increased my cadence – running almost 180 steps/minute. This small step was incredibly easy. I bought a metronome – set it for 180 beats each minute. I just practiced stepping in time with the beat. As I increased my cadence, my stride became much shorter – nearly eliminating my heel strike and alleviating most of my foot pain.

With each week, my endurance is increasing and my pain is decreasing. The pain isn’t the only thing decreasing; my hatred for running is slowly dissipating.

I still don’t love running, but I certainly don’t hate it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Renewed Commitment.

After chatting with a new friend of mine about her fitness blog, I realized it had been weeks, since I have posted here. This week, I actually made a renewed commitment to my training, which makes this a perfect time to return to blogging.

Even though I have not been blogging regularly, I have been tracking my kilometers. So far, March has been a great month to get back on track - I have logged over 100km this month alone.

I have gotten back on the wagon, while to be more specific - the bike. I am still looking for a decent spin class at my current gym. I have gone to three different classes. So far, the instructors are very nice, but require a great deal of personal motivation. The best one was with Mike, who did the whole class with a Michael Jackson playlist. At this time, 60 minutes on the bike is difficult… I am certainly not ready to also train my mind; I go to the class It’s much better for me when the instructor uses imagery and convinces me I am in a race. I definitely have a competitive streak. So when she says, "only three racers to beat, let's catch them on the climb", it is much more motivating, then only 2 more minutes.

My local triathlon club meets regularly for bike rides. This past weekend was a “beginner ride”. It turns out, I need a PRE-Beginner Ride. On a good day, I am definitely closer to 11-13 mph, maybe even a little less when there are hills. I love my bike, and love to ride it – but didn’t realize 16 miles of rolling hills at 14-16mph was BEGINNER.

After a little prodding from my sister and the encouragement from the group’s leader, I decided to go. It was tough. It was fun. I finished all 16 miles, even 2 excruciating climbs – in about 1:22 – about 11 or so mph. It was an accomplishment and I DIDN’T COME IN LAST.

Total as of Today = 297.50km

Goal = 2011km in 2011.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Motivating or Discouraging?

This is a very hard time of year for me. The events that excite me into training are months and months away. The mornings are dark, which makes it hard for me wake up. I barely wake up in time to go to work, let alone to walk the dog or hit the gym. Even though, you have hours in the evening; the darkness at 6 or 7 tricks my mind into thinking it is bedtime. I guess they call it the “winter-time blues”. Whatever you want to call it, it makes staying in shape and staying active very difficult.

I have been working hard to meet my goal. I created a spreadsheet to track my kilometers and keep a goal. I am not doing as well as I would like - just shy of 62 km. As of today, the break down looks like this:

Run - 21 km

Bike - a big fat 0.

Swim - 4.4 km

Walking - 36 km

Clearly, I am doing much more walking than anything else. I was sick most of last week and barely left the house. I am certainly not biking as much as I would like; the cold and snowy weather has intimidated me. I would like to do more running, but I am listening to the physical therapist and taking it easy while perfecting my form.

I was proud of my spreadsheet when I was on track. I opened it up every day, and bragged about it. A coworker friend of mine said, you should add a column that will show you if you are on track. So I did. 2011 km, is about 5.5 km a day. It didn't take long for the "on track" column to grow quickly (148.50km), while my "current total" column is a little stagnant (61.87km).

At first, it was a little bit motivating, causing me to walk or run a little farther. Lately, however, I am beginning to feel a little discouraged - I almost feel as if I am failing at my goal. I know I have plenty of days to catch up. When the days are longer and warmer, it will be easier to log extra km.

And as I look out my window - the snowy thunderstorm about to drop up to 10 inches certainly will not help.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Great Start... Minor Setbacks.

My New Year’s Resolution was 2011 km in the year 2011. I was very excited to get started. I signed up for a 5k Resolution Run and even I made a excel spreadsheet to track my progress. On New Year’s Day, I woke up to walk the dog, and then headed downtown to the park for the 5k. I felt confident that I could run most of the 5k, even though I am slowly rehabbing a foot injury. It was a beautiful 40 degrees, everyone was amazingly friendly and I was wearing my ankle brace.

The first mile was easy – small rolling hills. I had a time under 12 minutes. Just after mile 1, there was a hill. The water at the top was motivation to keep running. Turning the corner, just to see another hill that was both bigger and steeper caught me off guard. I was motivated; I kept pushing. I had to walk a little because my foot began to hurt and I got a cramp in my back. I finished in 36 minutes and 28 seconds. Not my best 5k time, but a great time to keep trying to beat through the rest of the year.

The beginning of the year started off with a bang – a little over 9 km on the first day. I haven’t quite kept up that pace, but I was still on track through the weekend. The first two weeks were tough, the cold and a little snow made it difficult to bike. With the foot issue at the run, I have gone back to the doctor and I am beginning physically therapy for my foot. But, I still feel like I can complete this goal. When the weather warms up and the days are longer, I hope the doctor will clear me to run again and it will be easier for long bike rides.

Current km count = 40km.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Torres del Paine

I am spending the first 11 days of 2011 in South America. Buenos Aires for New Year's, then Iguazu Falls, wine tasting in Mendoza, Argentina and finishing up in Santiago, Chile. However, this is the "non-active" part of my vacation, which started with a backpacking trek in Patagonia. I didn't think it was fair to be 11 days behind in the 2011 in 2011 Challenge due to a vacation that actually included a lot of exercise, so I am going to count my trek, even if it technically happened in the end of 2010.

The trek itself was a circuit around Torres Del Paine National Park that took 8 days and covered roughly 70 miles. The net elevation (highest point - lowest point) is nearly 4000ft, but if you include all the ups and downs in between it's something like 15,000 ft up and down.

It is among the most hard core things I have ever done. It was pretty tough physically -- especially the day which crossed Paso John Gardner, the highest point on the trek -- but what made it even more awesome was the feeling that it was just you against the wind and the mountain. I hiked with my friend Alyssa, and we met another girl named Lisa, so I wasn't completely alone, but we were more or less fending for ourselves -- no tour guide to watch out for us.

We hiked between 4 and 7 hours a day -- usually between 10 and 20 km. Our packs weighed about 25 pounds, and the trek often included climbing over rocks or crossing through streams. By the end I felt a little like superwomen -- my legs were made of steel. I'm hoping those muscles are still around by the time I get home -- I'm going to need them if 2011 in 2011 is going to become a reality!!

Current km count: 113.5