Posts Tagged ‘running’

Running on Empty

Dark mornings. Crazy work days. Night-time meetings and obligations. There’s a shift that happens at this time of year that requires a shift in the old exercise routine too. And shifts can be tough.

As a result, I haven’t done any exercise since Monday night, when I went running after work and then to a personal training session. I have no excuse for not doing ANYTHING. I can do resistance training at home. I can put my bike on the trainer and cycle my little heart out in the dark, in the cold…in the comfort of my living room. I can do jumping jacks or go out on the back deck and jump rope. But what I’ve wanted to do is run. Outside. In the bright sunshine and crisp weather.

I plan to go running tonight after work tonight provided I escape my cubicle before it gets too dark. However, I am not a huge fan of running after work. Remember last week when I was rejoicing that my morning runs felt strong and amazing because of the crisp weather?

Well as good as those felt is as tough as it feels to run after a full day of stress and food (even healthy food). Monday night when I ran after work— and I looked forward to it all day and had pizza to look forward to when I finished— I felt like I was wearing 25-lb. weights on each leg. The weather was humid and iffy that night with storms coming in, so I cut my run short to beat the rain. And I knew I had a training class later for which I wanted some energy.

Tonight, I expect my run to tough as well. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’ve had so much going on these days though, I don’t feel like I have a whole lot to give to exercise at the end of the day, which is why I like to go in the morning. However, I know it’s something I need to do. Because while I might not have a whole lot to give to the road after a long workday, by getting out there anyway, that run (and I never thought I would be saying this), no matter how slow or difficult it is, gives me the release and energy I need to get up and do it all again the next day.

Must Be The Weather

It is officially fall today. And for the past couple of days we’ve had perfect fall weather. Crisp mornings, warm afternoons and chilly nights. No humidity and bright, blue sunny skies. This is my favorite time of the year on Long Island.

I was walking at this time of year last year, having started my fitness quest in July, but I wasn’t running yet. That didn’t start until November, and then it was indoors, on the treadmill. Saturday, after 5 days off from doing anything, I went running. It was so gorgeous and I felt so strong, I ran a full three miles at a harder-than-usual pace for me. Could have been because it was chilly starting out? All I know is it was one of my best runs from a perspective of feeling strong and enjoying myself.

Sunday, my legs reminded me that I shouldn’t really take 5 days off and then run hard. Ouch. I went swimming on Sunday to try to loosen up, but ended up going much farther than I expected, swimming about 1100 yards. By Sunday afternoon, I was sore all over! But it was a good sore.

The nice thing is that when I got up this morning, I felt good again. No more muscle pain. And hubby was home from work today and could take our daughter to work. So I got to go running again in the spectacular weather this morning. I ran 2.5 miles this morning (because I did have to come home and get ready for work) but surprisingly, I was able to run good and hard again. I figured today would be a slower run because my legs were still a little fatigued from Saturday. I don’t know what’s giving me the extra pep in my step, but I’ll take it.

It must be the weather.

I’m Back On The Run

I went running this morning. It was a great run. The weather was perfect, my legs felt great, my breathing was controlled and consistent and when I finished my 3-mile run, I knew I still had my running mojo.

I say “still had it” because I have this weird phenomenon that happens to me after a race or even after a few days off from running. And I had a few days off  this week, five to be exact. After my race on Sunday, I didn’t get any exercise at all for the rest of the week. My schedule was just nuts last week.

I knew had to get back out there no later than today. After races, because they are tougher, and a few days away from running, I start to develop this irrational fear that I won’t be able to do it again. Somehow, after a few days off, the fitness level I’ve worked so hard to achieve will just disappear. Does this happen to anyone else?

The longer I wait, the more apprehensive I get. So today when I got up, got dressed and got ready to head out the door, I was armed with my arsenal of choices. I could go for a longer run (3.2 miles), a shorter run (2.5 miles) or I could walk. I can always walk.

I procrastinated a bit this morning. I tried to set RunKeeper on my iPhone but that just didn’t seem to want to work, so I walked back home and left it there. Now I was going to just run for running’s sake.

I set back out, starting with my walking warmup and a funny thing happened. Maybe it was the crisp morning air, or even just the week’s rest, but I almost felt like my legs were saying, “Now? Can we go now?”

When I started running, it felt like I’d been doing it all of my life. No nagging knees and I felt like I had more push than I’d had even before the race. I opted for the 3.2-mile loop because it would have been a shame to waste feeling that good on a shorter run. Maybe rest periods aren’t so bad after all.

Today’s was possibly the best run I’ve ever had. Maybe it was the chill in the air. Today though, I felt strong the whole way and I was reminded that I really do like this running thing. And I’m not even training for a race right now, although I do plan to tackle a 5K or two before the weather turns too cold.

On a side note, thanks to Jill from Finishing Is Winning for putting me in the spotlight on her blog as this week’s Props Wednesday! I was so honored.

Running: Treadmill vs. Road

running-treadmillIt was dark this morning when it was time to go work out. It was also kind of rainy. School started today in my neighborhood, and that combined with the dark signal that summer is definitely coming to a close. Kind of sad. I enjoyed this summer because I’ve spent lots of time outside.

I have come to love running in the morning outside. Long runs, short runs… even though my route is the same most days, there’s always interesting stuff to see and having a destination somehow gives each run a purpose, even if it’s just to get home again. Outside, there are hills and changing weather and trees and other runners and it just breezes by, even on slow running days.

Today though, since I needed to do my last brick workout before next Sunday’s race, I had to go to the gym. I actually prefer the stationary bike because I don’t have to worry about cars, but even though I don’t know what I would have done without it in the beginning, I now understand  the nickname I see so often for the treadmill – the dreadmill.

Running after biking is just not my favorite thing to do, under any circumstances. But doing it outside is a whole lot easier than jumping on the treadmill after a 10-mile bike. The treadmill doesn’t really allow for those points where I need to go slower or faster and because I don’t see my landmarks, it’s just me and the minutes.

Don’t get me wrong. The treadmill has its purpose and I’m sure as the weather gets colder I will be spending more and more time getting to know it and admire it again.

Without the treadmill, I never would have made it through Couch25K. Without the treadmill, I never would have become a runner. When I was interval training, those seconds, then minutes, ticking by made building up to running possible. It gave me the confidence that I could do this. The first couple of times that I took my new legs out on the road, I thought I might die and wished that I could do a triathlon in the pool, on the stationary bike and on the treadmill. But they don’t let you do triathlons in the gym, so I sucked it up and got better at running outside, never in the beginning thinking I’d ever trade the treadmill for the road in my heart. But I have.

This morning, I ran 2 miles after a 10-mile stationary bike training. I had to throw my towel over the readout so I couldn’t watch the minutes ticking by. It felt like an eternity. I tried playing with intervals, going faster, raising the incline. It still felt like an eternity, and it was only 23 minutes. I tried concentrating only on the music piping into my ears. I tried focusing on other people in the gym (there aren’t too many to focus on at 6:30 am). Maybe I was just tired, but the run felt long this morning and it was a short one.

Maybe I just wasn’t prepared for the transition back to running on the treadmill again. I certainly wasn’t ready when I transitioned to running on the road. I’m sure I will come up with ways to make the treadmill interesting again as I know I will be spending more time with it as the days get shorter and the air gets colder. Maybe by next Spring, I’ll be faster!

At least now I know that to mirror resistance on the road, I need to keep the treadmill at an incline of 1. That will make transitioning back to the road a whole lot easier. That and that I plan to run outdoors any chance I get during daylight hours.

How do you cope with treadmill boredom?

T minus 7 days to Trek Women Triathlon

My final and longest triathlon of the season is a week from today. Two weeks ago, I will admit, I was still on the fence about this race, even though I had signed up for it and paid the fee.

I am such a  newbie triathlete, and my first race on August 1, was tough, and shorter than this next one. That one was a 1/4 mile swim, 6 mile bike, 2 mile run. I did ok on the swim and bike, but by the run, I was toast. I finished with a lot of walking breaks, but I finished and I was  proud of that.

The Trek Women triathlon on Sept. 13 is also a 1/4 mile swim, but with a 9-mile bike and 5K (3.1 mile) run. That’s quite a lot longer than the first one. When I signed up for this one (and I swear I wasn’t high on anything), I’m not sure  what came over me. At my level of fitness, I wasn’t sure that six weeks would be enough training time to increase my bike distance and run distance by a third.

But here I am, one week from race day. And I’m feeling confident. More confident perhaps than I did even on August 1. I’ve been training pretty hard these past few weeks, even when I didn’t want to.

Yesterday (oh how I love weekends when I don’t have to peel myself out of bed at 6am), I planned a training brick. I really don’t like bricks (doing two race disciplines consecutively), and I especially am not fond of bike/run bricks. Going from the bike to the run is hard…in the race and in training. My legs feel like jello and don’t want to work when it’s time to run. It can take up to a half mile before they feel somewhat normal again.

Until yesterday, I have been doing shorter bricks (6mile bike, 2 mile run; 8mile bike, 1.5 mile run) and doing the full distances on their own.

Yesterday was the big test. In the morning, I made some adjustments to the bike and made sure the tires were good and filled (by the way, this makes a huge difference) and off I went. I hooked Runkeeper up on my iPhone to track my bike first, but something went wonky and it didn’t track. I’m not sure how long it took, but I rode 9.5 miles, I think in about 40 minutes.

I got off the bike, took  a couple of swigs of water, ate a babybel cheese, had to run downstairs (twice!) to get my iPod and headphones (stairs are the only thing tougher than running after bike training), reset RunKeeper on my iPhone, and took off running. I had planned to run 2 miles, but when I got to the turning point, I felt ok, so I decided to go for the longer run. And I made it! 3.2 miles, running the whole way. I did not stop once to walk and yesterday, it was pretty hot by the time I was running. There were points in the run where it took a lot of self-talk to keep from walking or stopping, but I made it through, It’s amazing how much of this endurance training comes down to mind over matter.

Runkeeper worked (sort of) the second time out, and I managed to finish 3.2 miles in 37 minutes and 40 seconds, which for me, was spectacular after the bike.

It was an exhausting workout but felt great finishing and now I know I’m ready for next Sunday. I know I’m ready because even though I was a little stiff yesterday, I’m not sore today. Today, I feel great and had a really good swim workout this morning.

Next Sunday, my goal again is to finish. And I’m planning on no walking during the run portion. Of course, if I end up having to, I will be kind to myself. I may not be the fastest woman out there on the course, or even close, but I can do this and finish proudly. I just have to remember not to drink half the pool this time. I know hydration is important, but I don’t think chlorinated water counts!

The ‘Not So Obvious’ Benefits of Exercise

I’m not in love with getting out of bed in the morning to exercise. But I am in love with how I feel when I’m doing it and how I feel for the whole day after.

We all know that exercise is essential to good health and fitting into those smaller jeans and muscle tone. We all know that exercise gives us  energy and stamina and strong bones.

But I’ve  gotten a couple of things from exercise that I didn’t expect:

  • My skin looks great. I don’t know if that’s from sweating or all the water I drink because I sweat, but  I actually had someone tell me recently that my skin is glowing. Plus I have a tan. A healthy, gradual tan that has come from running and biking outside (and a little sitting on the beach, which I wouldn’t have done in summers past.)
  • Speaking of water, I drink so much more water on the days that I exercise. And it’s easy. I’ve usually downed 32 ounces of water before 9:00am when I go out running in the morning. And I drink, drink, drink all day to rehydrate. On non-exercise days, water isn’t as appealing.
  • I eat better and usually less on exercise days. It’s almost as though my body knows on the days that its expended all that energy that real food is necessary to replenish. And that’s what I crave. On running days especially, I’m more likely to reach for that apple and make myself a nice lean protein/whole grain and veggie dinner than on off days.
  • I tend to concentrate better on workout days. I feel clearer, more focused and generally, lessed stressed. My job, my life are stressful these days, so that’s a very good thing.
  • Confidence. I am so much happier with the way I look and how my clothes fit, that I feel better about myself and more confident in my appearance. More than that though, I know I can run 3 miles, bike 10 and swim a half a mile, sometimes all on the same day.  These are things I didn’t think I would ever do, or ever be able to do,  and I’m really proud of my accomplishments. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but it makes me feel like I belong to a special club. And I draw on it when I’m feeling not so hot or confident in other areas of my life.
  • I’m inspired. Doing something repetitive for a half hour or longer gives me time to let my mind just wander. Lots of times, I just stay tuned into whatever music I’m listening to, or I focus on my form. However, other times, when I let my mind just drift, I come up with creative solutions to ongoing problems, blog posts or ideas on how to share what I’ve learned along the way with others.

On that note, I do have plans for creating an environment where those of us on this journey can encourage each other to stay the course and reach our collective goals – good health and fitness – however we are getting there.

When You Least Expect It

Saturday, because of the rain, was a swim day. I usually swim train with a friend on Saturday morning and that makes it more fun. Yesterday though, Jen was off on vacation, so I headed to the pool alone. I did not want to go. It was rainy and dark and miserable here yesterday. To swim on Saturday, even in crappy weather means getting to the gym by 7:30 am. The pool starts to get crowded around 8:15 or so. I had to coax myself out the door.

However, I was off from training on Thursday and then again on Friday, so I made myself go. The way I felt, I wasn’t so sure it would be a very good training session, but these things need to be done.

I got there and there was only one other person in the pool. Sweet. I love it when I get the pool, or at least a lane, to myself. And I kicked off. I had decided to swim 400 meters hard, easy for 100, hard for 200, easy for 100, etc. I had a great 400-meter swim (although there was no clock to tell the time) and a great rest of my swim too. I swam harder more than I had planned and overall went 1500 meters (the most I’ve done). I felt great when I got out of the pool. And I felt great pretty much the rest of the day.

Sunday morning, I had a long run planned. Again, morning came and I did not want to leave the comfort of my bed. I was up late the night before and sometimes, I just like to sleep in. It was not raining though and there was still some cloud cover so it was cooler than it has been. I got up, got dressed, tried to hook up Runkeeper on my iPhone to track the run, but to no avail. For whatever reason, Runkeeper couldn’t find my location. Next time.

I set off walking like I always do; giving myself my little pep talk, like I always do; listening to my music, like I always do. I started running and decided to take a longer route that I take on the bike, figuring if I got tired, I could always walk a bit.

Bottom line, I ran three and a half miles today in 43 minutes and I could have gone farther. With the weather being cool, and maybe because I’d had a couple of days off from running, I felt strong and consistent today. I didn’t get winded, my legs and knees felt good and I only had one spot where I felt a little draggy. I wasn’t too sure how much distance I was tacking onto my run (since it was spur of the moment to go farther), so I stopped when I think I could have probably run more.

I’m going to try a slightly longer run on Tuesday to hit the 4-mile mark, since that was one of my goals for the Missouri 60 challenge!

Both days this weekend, I didn’t feel much like exercising and really didn’t have very high expectations for my performance based on my not-so-enthusiastic attitude. What surprised me though, is if I can get past the grumblies and out the door, once I get going, I really, really enjoy working out and pushing myself. And even though I’ve been doing this on a regular basis now for a year, it still surprises me.

I like surprises. So I’m going to keep hitting the road, the pool and whatever other fun exercise opportunities come my way.

How do you talk yourself out the door to get your exercise in?

PS: There was no rolling me out of bed this morning. I’ll be getting my bike ride in after work today!

Climbing Back On The Wagon After A Hard Fall

littleredwagonWhen I wrote my blog post on Wednesday, I wrote that I was struggling with staying on track food-wise. I somehow managed to stay in control until that evening when I came home to pizza and scarfed two pieces without even thinking about it. I will admit, even though I felt a little guilty later, it felt GOOD to eat with abandon. So good, in fact, that it sent me on a downward spiral for the next four days. By day four, however, it didn’t feel so good anymore.

Thursday there was seafood bisque in a bread bowl and delicious chocolate truffles. Friday it was an overload on english muffins with butter and cinnamon sugar (a favorite treat but I always stop at one. Mind you, these are the high-fiber, low-cal multigrain english muffins and I used light butter, but still. Did I really need two of them?

Saturday, ah what can I say about Saturday. If it didn’t try to run away from me, I ate it. Candy, more pizza, whoopie pies (have you ever had those?) ice cream….the list goes on. Food shopping was a dangerous thing to do on Saturday.

And yesterday, while I started to regain some control, I still ate some of the wrong things.

During this, I did still try to make some healthy choices, as though that would somehow magically make the madness stop. It didn’t. And I exercised and drank my water…same reasoning, same results.

By last night though, I felt out of control and a little nervous that I’d screwed up big-time and wouldn’t be able to pull it back. And my stomach hurt.

I think I’d been heading toward this for awhile, and that may have a lot to do with my stalled weight loss. Little tastes here and there that I wasn’t tracking, a slightly larger than measured portion, an extra treat.

Last night, through a twitter conversation with @patbarone, I realized that I had put myself on vacation mentality, and I was also feeling overwhelmed by stuff I have to get done at home over the next few days. Procrastination by food.

This morning, though, on the 3-mile run that I really didn’t feel like tackling (this is why I sign up for races), I realized that instead of being proud of myself, I’ve been beating myself up again. Instaed of focusing on how far I’ve come, I’ve been frustrated with how slow the weight loss is going and that I’d like to be further along in my tri training.

While I was running this morning, I reversed that. How far have I come, for goodness sake? What can I do now that I couldn’t a year ago? What positive changes have I made that stuck? I’m running. In the beginning, I was barely walking. I’m a size 12. I was a size 20. I drink lots of water and very little soda. I eat so much healthier than I did. I even eat vegetables and lean protein and whole grains.

So many things have changed for the better for me since I started this journey. So “fat girl” managed to creep back in for a couple of days. “Fit girl” is stronger and today she has pushed “fat girl” to the back corner again.

I don’t doubt that “fat girl” will show up from time to time. She’s been a part of me a lot longer than “fit girl,” and man, does she love her chocolate!  But I know I’m strong enough now to regain my healthy self even after a hard fall off the wagon.

As @patbarone said, “it’s not about what feels good now. It’s about what feels good later.” Today is later, my resolve is back, and I feel great!

Running Away… From Stress

I have a large family. Four brothers and a sister. Both of my parents passed away quite some time ago, and with everything we’ve been through, we (my four brothers, sister and I) have stayed very close. In fact, my sister is my very dearest friend and we talk on the phone two or three times a day. She lives in Virginia. I’m in New York, close to two of my brothers. My other brothers are in North Carolina and Florida.

One of my brothers was having a crisis last night/this morning and sent a text message that had the rest of us scrambling to reach him and reach each other at 5:30 am. When we finally did reach him, everything was fine, but the whole situation left me kind of stressed out. I live in a pretty constant state of stress anyway with things currently going on in my life; this pushed it to the edge.

By the time everything was cleared up it was 6:30, which is late for me to exercise in the morning. Still, I threw on my sneakers and went for a 2.5-mile run, and a pretty hard run (for me) at that. Running was not on my schedule for today, but I needed to escape for a few minutes and the running let me do that. I also knew by running this morning, I’d be able to better handle anything else that might crop up later. Lately, there always seems to be something. While running, I tried to picture all the stressy things slipping away from my body behind me and by the time I got home, I felt better.

In the past, I never would have gone the exercise route to push off stress. I probably would have eaten an entire Entenmann’s cake and then just felt sick to my stomach, ultimately adding to the stress. Not to mention eating Entenmann’s cakes probably had something to do with how I got here in the first place.

Running, by far, was the healthier choice. And surprisingly, not surprisingly, it really helped.

I Love Running… I Hate Running… I Love Running…

woman-runningRecently, I came across a greeting card that on the front said: I love running, I hate running, I love running, I hate running. I loved that and if I could find it again, I would totally link you to it! I loved it, because as a newbie runner, it’s exactly the way I feel, when I’m running, when I’m about to start running, when I finish. It is totally a love/hate relationship, although lately, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

While I was running my 3.2 miles this morning (my version of a long run), I thought about this the whole way. What is it that I love about running? And what is it that I hate? It was more an exercise in keeping my mind occupied and made my run today go quickly.

The highlights?

I love running on a morning like today. It was crisp and cool and sunny. There’s nothing like being outside on a morning like this.

I hate running in the humidity. Slogging through pea soup is not my idea of fun. There’s nothing like sitting in front of an air conditioner on those days, but I usually run anyway.

I love running downhill. I feel fast and it’s easy.

I hate running uphill, but I’m psyched that I can do it now. Just a few short months ago, I would have to walk up the hills. And there’s usually a downhill on the other side.

I love starting my day moving and listening to music.

I hate getting out of bed to go move and listen to music.

I love taking off after the warmup walk part of my run.

I hate the way my knees sometimes feel when I go from walking to running. But then they settle in and its all good.

I love the parts of the run where it feels effortless and the road just goes by (I don’t have a lot of this yet, but it does happen.)

I hate when my legs feel like lead and every inch of the road feels like a mile (I have more of this but it’s getting less.)

I love when my shadow is in front of me and I can see myself run. My legs look 9 feet long and I feel speedy.

I hate the idea that other people can see me run. In reality, I’m pretty slow. I wonder what they are thinking sometimes.

I love my sneakers.

I hate how hot my feet get.

I love sweating.

I hate sweating.

I love turning into my driveway at the end of my run.

I hate the mid-point of a run. Turning back now would take just as long as going forward, so I always choose forward.

I love answering the question “How far did you run today?” It assumes I’m a runner.

I hate when I have to walk during a run. Then I don’t feel like a runner.

I love endorphins and the way my day goes after a run in the morning. It pumps me up more than any other exercise I do.

I love that I CAN run.

I hate that I didn’t start sooner.

Running has changed me. More than any other exercise I do, I get a sense of accomplishment when I complete a run, even a short one. I never thought I would be a runner. I never actually had any desire to be a runner, even when I started. But it has grown on me. I constantly challenge myself through running and the rewards have been worth every effort. I feel great and have more energy, my skin looks great, I handle stress better, I love the way my jeans fit, I have more confidence and I’m just all around happier.

If you are considering running, go for it. Start slow with an interval program and don’t beat yourself up when progress is slow. There will be days when you hate running, but there will be times you love it. It’s the “love” moments that get you out on the road time after time.

And the four words that push me out the door: “I can always walk.”