Category Archives: Cross Training

Check In

Hello friends! Long time no chat. How’s everyone doing?

It feels a little like summer vacation recently, which is part of the reason I’ve been MIA from my little blog. Lots of activity going on, lots of plans, and generally lots of fun. I feel like I’ve been busier with social “obligations” than I have been since college, and it’s been great. I blame the sun—it turns everyone into butterflies who flutter toward each other.

#proof that I wore fake eyelashses and glitter in honor of Pride.

#proof that I wore fake eyelashses and glitter in honor of Pride.

So, while I’ve been staying out later and swapping second runs for happy hours, there’s still been plenty of race prep going on. And by “race,” I should say “races” because right now I’m in trifecta mode—trying to improve my fitness for three different types of events coming up in the next few months. It’s been…interesting. So let’s recap those sweaty and non-sweaty endeavors shall we?

Tri-Specific Training

I haven’t necessarily been doing more or less in regard to triathlon training. Honestly, I would run every day if I could, but since I can’t I’m trying to tuck swimming and biking/spinning in once or twice a week. It’s not that I don’t like either of these activities (although swimming can be boring…) it’s just that in the summer I want to be running outside.

However, I’m really starting to like biking. In a new-crush, giddy kind of way. I always loved the idea of being a biking person, and now that I have a good bike, good weather, and good company—it seems the stars are aligning. Super bike pro Lindsay invited my slow self last weekend for a Burke-Gilman ride (34 miles!), and I really enjoyed myself. It feels really good to shake it up, and I actually like feeling like a beginner at something, strangely enough. It’s also really nice to have another option besides running where I can be outside, go for a long time, and all the while not worry so much about the impact. I’m hoping by the end of the summer to have a few extra-long rides under my belt.

And all this bike love is definitely a good thing—because when it comes to the triathlon disciplines, it’s definitely the one I need the most work on.

Ultra-Relay Training

This is how I feel about running 35 miles in 24 hours. Also how I feel about how neon has taken over my life. Neon bra is showing THROUGH neon shirt. WTF.

This is how I feel about running 35 miles in 24 hours. Also how I feel about how neon has taken over my life. Neon bra is showing THROUGH the neon shirt. WTF.

I was initially feeling really good about this training. I was logging at least once-a-week double run days, and my training felt pretty specific to ultra-relay conditions. However, ever since life started getting busy and the first ultra race started to get closer, I’ve been feeling a little more apprehensive about my prep. However, I did run 12 miles at 7 am Sunday morning after being out really late the night before (see eyelash photo above), which I decided was good Ragnar simulation. Right? Right.

I’m running 35 miles at Ragnar in 24 hours, which is A LOT. It was always going to be a lot, no matter how well trained I was, but it’s getting to be intimidating in a scary kind of way. I’ve been averaging between 40-45 miles a week lately, which is good—but compared to what I’ll be doing at Ragnar, it seems measly.

That doesn’t mean I’m not excited though, because I really can’t wait. And despite the high mileage, I’m feeling good about my projected running times. According to our pace calculators, I should be running around sunset, sunrise, and then late in the afternoon (I’m the last runner). So, although I’ll be waking up in the 4 o’clock hour to run 15+ miles, I’m hoping I’ll get a sunrise out of it 🙂 Can’t complain, it’s all part of the adventure—I just hope my legs hold up.

And, if I do horribly, the good (?) news is that I get to try again a month later at Spokane to Sandpoint. I know, I don’t know who I am either.

Goal Half-Marathon Training

Meh. That’s all I have to say about this one. With nearly three months until my big scary goal race, I’ve been a little lackluster about my speed-dedicated workouts. I did 7 x 800 last week and it was HARD. Please, don’t let me postpone a speed workout until the afternoon ever again. It was hot, my stomach hated me, and it was harder than it should have been. I ran each 800 at 6:55 pace, and I could feel every one of them. Two bathroom stops too, fun times.

So, for right now I’m focusing on one speed workout a week, which will pick up after Ragnar. I also have the See Jane Run half coming up in two weeks, and while I don’t expect anything spectacular—I’d like to use it as a bit of a check in. It’s a flat course, and presuming it will be somewhat shaded, I think it will be a good opportunity for a “test run.”

Basically, I could be doing better with speed-specific work, but with the heat it’s not necessarily the best time to push the envelope every day. However, I do trust heat training to have rewarding benefits once the fall comes around. Oh dear, sweet fall running…I’m excited for you.

Other things

I haven’t been photographing much that’s been going on (per usual), however I do have some photos to marginally depict my life as of late:

Seattle sunset by the Seattle Big Wheel. I can't stop photographing the sky. And because I'm now obligated to say it, #nofilter.

Seattle sunset by the Seattle Big Wheel. I can’t stop photographing the sky. And because I’m now obligated to say it, #nofilter.

I look like a child at Disneyland. Except I'm surrounded by drag queens and nearly naked men.

I look like a child at Disneyland. Except I’m surrounded by drag queens and nearly naked men.

And speaking of…

Yes, he is one of my best friends. No, he doesn't go to the gym very much. Yes, you are allowed to hate him.

Yes, he is one of my best friends. No, he doesn’t go to the gym very much. Yes, you are allowed to hate him.

You’re welcome/I’m sorry.

Yesterday morning at 5 am. This is the view from my house, i don't hate it.

Yesterday morning at 5 am. This is the view from my house, i don’t hate it.

 

Reading at the park, one of our new favorite activities.

Reading at the park, one of our new favorite activities.

So there’s my training and life check in. I’ve been orchestrating a bigger balancing act between the two than I have in a while, and to tell you the truth—it feels really good. Besides the apprehension about my preparedness for upcoming events, I am really liking the shift in prioritization that’s been happening. Like I said, it feels like summer break—and in that sense, it shouldn’t be all about the miles. And while it may seem like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with all my upcoming races and goals, it’s all in the name of having fun and trying new things—and I actually wouldn’t have it any other way.

And on one final note…CONGRATULATIONS to Miss Nicole “Ricole Runs” on her beautiful new baby boy!!!!! I think he came early because I wants you to run a PR in every distance sooner 🙂

 

 

 

 

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My New Favorite Workout

Big news in Robyn land, friends.

Yesterday, I decided to test my “my IT band is recovered” theory for realz and attempt to run without my precious strap.

time to say goodbye?

This strap was the only way I was able to run when I was in the thick of injury, and slowly but surely it has helped me get back into running business. So despite a few chaffing issues (never thought I’d need Body Glide on the back of my knee) and yet another piece of gear that gets covered in sweat, this strap has been my BFF for the past month and a half.

However, I knew that ultimately the goal was the cut the proverbial cord with my Velcro friend and get back to running au natural. I think that might actually mean running naked, but you get the idea.

And although I did become enamored with this dinky little gizmo’s ability to get me from 0 to running nearly 50 miles a week…I didn’t like feeling that I needed it. Sure, using the strap is about 1,000x better than not running at all, but I knew I’d never consider myself fully recovered until I could run sans strap.

As I’ve mentioned in pretty much every post for the past two weeks, I haven’t been having knee pain due to my IT band at all. Before, even with the strap I would experience some tightness inevitably—especially on longer runs. But recently I haven’t even been noticing it—which was both encouraging and a sign that it might be time to break up with my beloved friend.

So this morning, as I embarked on my tempo treadmill run, I started off bare-legged with my lonely strap sitting on the side. And then 7 miles went by, and I had no pain at all.

Hooray!

I had a feeling this would happen, I was just a little bit scared of going strapless and having all my IT band issues return. Alas, I had a feeling my ailments had mended—and it would seem that I might be out of the woods.

I will probably wear the strap for my next couple of longer runs, or maybe wear it half the time, just to be safe, but I think I’m nearly at the point where I can kiss my little IT band injury’s ass goodbye! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

And for the sake of safety, let’s all knock on some wood.

Now I’ll back up to the workout from yesterday, which is slowly becoming my favorite weekly workout. My favorite workouts are almost always my long runs—they are just normally the most gratifying—but recently I’ve been digging speed and strength more. So here’s what my workout looked like at 0500 yesterday morning, which is similar to the routine I’ve followed for the past month or so.

7 miles on the treadmill: 1 mile warm up, 5 miles @ half-marathon goal pace, and 1 cool down mile.

I have been on the t(d)readmill for the past two weeks for my tempo runs, and I have to admit I don’t hate it. I love being outside, but the treadmill forces me to stay at a consistent pace, and I like the subtle, incremental increases. Also, I can watch Gossip Girl reruns while pounding out my miles, which obviously is the best kind of brain fuel when you first wake up. The real reason I’ve been treadmilling is because the strength class I do after running fills up super fast and you need to be there early to get a spot/set up your station. It’s just more convenient. Plus…Chuck and Blair. SCREW SERENA!

Anyway I felt great on this run. No strap (obvs) and I was able to hold a 7:40 (my ambitious HM goal pace) without too much trouble. I also was able to check my reflection in the window to watch my form, and the lesson I need to cram into my brain is to LOWER MY ARMS. This is my worst running form habit, and I know that lowering them will help preserve energy.

exhibit A: channeling my inner t-rex

After I sweat it out on the running machine, I headed to the strength class which is slowly becoming my favorite thing at my gym. It’s technically called Maximum Sculpt, although it’s essentially classic Body Pump, and the woman who teaches it is an Ironman who is perhaps the nicest person in the world. I want to be her/have her as my life and fitness coach.

The reason I love this class is because it is SO different than most of my weekly workouts. It’s got a pretty quick pace to it, but it’s all about strengthening all major muscle groups with weights exercises, balancing, planking, squatting, etc. etc. It is the exact opposite from a 7 mile tempo run, which is why I love pairing them together. It’s two great workouts in one, and I feel like I can give my all to each without taking away from the other. Granted, I’m starving/thirsty all day—but that’s manageable. I like the high intensity of this combo workout, and because it’s in the middle of the week it’s far enough away from long runs and I can stack easier, shorter runs on either side.

I love new things, and I love that a revamped exercise schedule can totally rejuvenate your mind and body.

What’s your favorite weekly workout? Has it changed over the years?

Class People

I am going to be completely honest here and tell you that I really never thought much about exercise classes.

I always considered myself self-sufficient enough to take care of my own fitness, and in a completely judgmental and unfair way, I thought the reverse about people who went to classes. I’m a jerk, I know, and all I can plead is ignorance. I preferred keeping myself disciplined and designing my own workouts as opposed to someone telling me what to do. I figured classes were there for people who didn’t know how to exercise and needed encouragement and motivation from an instructor. Asshole, I know.

Fast forward to March 2011 (Or I guess rewind? Go with it):

Injured Robyn: Completely incapable of running, or even walking for that matter. Also, really effing grumpy.

Universe: “HA! Want to rethink judging those exercise classes, or drown in an out-of-shape pile of couch-sitting and Phish Food pints?”

Now, the Phish Food definitely happened, however at this point I realized that despite my aforementioned preference toward solo-cizing, in order to maintain a level of fitness—I would need to surrender at least some of my gym time to a professional instructor.

(Robyn, stop trying to make “solo-cizing” happen, it’s not going to happen. Thanks, Regina George.)

And you know what? I converted (ish). Spinning is a really darn good workout, and it necessitates a killer instructor who is kind of scary. Yoga is one of my most favorite things now, and not only does it make me stretchy and flexible (good for running), but it calms me down.

fyi: I NEED CALMING A LOT OF THE TIME.

Anyway, I am fairly certain that had I not been literally forced off the running-only wagon, I would never have found these other forms of sweating. Even when I was able to run again, I kept rolling on the cross-training bus, much of which included group-exercise classes.

Where am I going with all this? Well, if you haven’t been listening to my incessant blog rants, tweets, and merciful pleas to the universe(joke-ish), I am currently not able to run. I was robbed of a happy IT band in the Tacoma City Marathon, and since then I have had to be creative.

Luckily, thanks to last year’s injury, I was better prepared for how to keep myself in shape. (Dear world, if I must get hurt, let’s go for the winter months next time, cool?) In essence, I’ve been spinning and swimming like a madwoman. You would think I was preparing for a tri. Wait, am I? But, this time I wanted to actually try and take advantage of this temporary loss of my run love.

I committed to focusing the energy that is normally occupied with race registrations, long runs, and PRs on other aspects of my health—like  getting stronger and more bendy. I knew this would entail doing some of the things I normally avoid—such as venturing outside of the familiar spin room to—gasp!—another class. I have the yoga and spinning thing down…I’m a regular, the instructors know me, I’m comfortable with both. However these are the extent of my class experience.

My lack of attendance in other classes was due primarily to two things: 1) No time with marathon training and (honestly, more so) 2) apprehension. When I work out, I like knowing what I’m getting myself into. I like knowing beforehand that it will be worth my time, as in difficult and a good sweat, and I like knowing that I can get through it no problem. I didn’t really think that other group exercise classes would be beyond my physical condition, however as someone who is used to getting along no problem in a group exercise setting, I don’t like thinking of being the newbie who knows nothing.

Yes, I am psychotically competitive.

HOWEVER, I did vow to try. And try I have!

More specifically, I’ve been going to a “Maximum Sculpt” class at my gym, which was the least frightening choice when reading the online description. I knew the instructor, and the paragraph detailing what it included had enough familiar terms that I was comfortable testing it out.

It seems that I was not alone in preferencing this class—because when I arrived at 5:55 for a 6:00 am class, the entire room was full of everyone with their little stations of a step and weights and omg how much crap do we need??. So, obviously I pretended like I had been before, didn’t ask for help, and found the very last spot in the back of the room—which honestly I was grateful for.

And just like that, I was sweaty, tired, and humbled. Despite having a fairly strict routine myself, switching to something new proved that I have things I can definitely work on. My hammies were screaming after that first class, and lifting my arms to shampoo my hair was equivalent to bench-pressing BF.

Yes, you read that right—I do shower.

In essence, I was out of my comfort zone. And you know what? I’m totally digging it. As a creature of habit in all aspects of my life, I rarely stray from my normal routines—and exercise is perhaps the most perfect example. Because I can(could, sad face) run really long distances and lift weights on a semi-regular basis, I gave myself an out on not really pushing my body otherwise. I was so focused on running, and not having too sore of legs, that I was wary of ever doing anything else. And I didn’t care. I gave myself a get-out-of-jail free card and simply refused to try anything else.

Now, PLEASE remind me that I said this when I can run again, but I am realizing that we aren’t actually reaching our full potential by doing the same things over and over again. I know every exercise know-it-all preaches this, but I never really internalized it until I realized all the things my body couldn’t do. Naively, I figured that because my endurance was tip-top and I could run 26.2 miles, I had everything else in the bag.

Wrong.

Guess what? Running might be fantastic for many things, however just because you can run for three hours does not mean you have the fitness thing completely figured out. In that same breath, I am hoping to use this whole humbling I-actually-have-room-to-improve experience to teach me that while running might be my numero uno, I still need to focus on strengthening myself in other vacinities.

Running actually leaves a lot of our body parts quite weak, as I’m finding, and it’s due to these imbalances that a lot of injuries occur. Pounding out miles doesn’t always mean we’re getting better, and I’m recognizing the fact that the only way for us to get better is to do things that are uncomfortable. 

In this respect, I’ve sort of admitted to myself one of the biggest reasons I haven’t tried on any other exercise caps. It’s because I was/am afraid of it being hard. I know that sounds funny coming from someone who will willingly run 12 miles before the sun is up, however running is something that I know I can do. When I don’t know that I have the ability to excel at something, I get scared that it will be beyond my physical condition. Hence, the underlying reason why I never wanted to try out anything else.

Sure, it’s really easy for me to say these things when I don’t have the availability to run whenever I want, but it’s something I hope that injured and non-injured runners alike can recognize in their own habits. In running, in all physical conditioning, and in life, it’s the hard things, the things that are outside of our comfort zone, that actually make us better. It’s great to get comfortable…to know that we can knock out effortless miles day after day. But, that’s exactly the time that we should be looking at our weaknesses, and figuring how to improve upon those things. Plateauing is really easy when we stick to one repetitive routine, and it can be one of the fastest ways to injury, boredom, and actually losing our strength. I’m realizing now that I was absolutely plateauing when I was running a lot, and had I been a little less obsessive perhaps I would be in a different spot today.

So, I suppose for now—I am a “class person.” I am really, really enjoying getting my butt kicked by workouts, specifically when it’s facilitated by someone else. It’s good to see that despite having a lot of endurance strength, I have a lot of room to improve. Because despite how humbling it might be, it’s really exciting to see that I have a lot more potential—which gives me a lot of hope for my racing future, whensoever that may be.

I know I will always prefer to workout alone, but a little socialization never hurt anyone—and for someone desperate for another best friend while running takes a time out, a group setting could be just the ticket.

Now, talk to me: Are you a class person? Do you try to shake up your routine? Have you ever hit a running plateau?

Tri-Curious

If you couldn’t tell from my oh-so-clever play on words post title, I’d like to talk about a whole new type of endurance animal, in the form of swim, bike, run.

Triathlons

Now, running has and will always be my first love—I bestowed it with soul mate status in my Valentine’s Day post, in fact.

However, as I’ve mentioned before, I do have some devotion to other sweat-enducing activities, namely—spinning and swimming. I like these two things because they are great supplements to running, as in great cross training, but I also like them because on their own—they’re a whole new physical challenge.

I feel like running gets all the credit sometimes as the most effective way to test and improve your fitness. I admit, I am totally guilty of doing this, because there’s no workout I prefer more than a long run. However, I really don’t think that biking and swimming should be given the shaft so quickly—because these can both be just as, if not more, effective in terms of boosting endurance strength.

Yes I just said that.

But, as someone who is currently out of the running game and needing to push herself otherwise, I’m finding a greater respect for these alternatives. Seriously though. If you haven’t swam laps since you first learned to swim back when you were a kid, I challenge you to get in the pool and knock out some freestyle. I think you will be amazed just how tired you get, even if your running strength is superb.

The other reason I’m a big proponent of these cross training activities is because they help our muscles recuperate from the wear and tear of running. Fact: running is not very good for your joints. Dean Karnazes and all you other freaks who never get injured and have perfect, unbreakable running genes—screw you. These specimens are rare. For the rest of us, running is a constant game of working hard, training hard, and all the while avoiding injury. If there were some magic pill that made running impact-less and perfectly healthy, I’d be first in line at the doctor begging for my prescription. But, that’s not the case—which is one the reasons I’ve steered my marathon brain slightly in the direction of multi-sport events.

As of right now, I am still planning on at least two half marathons and one full this year. One of the halfs is in question with my current asshole of a leg, but otherwise I’m all set for this running schedule. I’m probably definitely going to add more, let’s be honest, I just need to pull some triggers. And by “pull some triggers” I mean “get more paychecks.”

But anyways.

While I love running training, I am also getting more and more interested in adding some additional challenge into the mix, in the form of triathlons.

Fun fact: I actually did three sprint triathlons long before even considering a running race. They were back in high school, when I somehow magically just whipped out these events despite never doing any of the activities, and they were definitely fun. So, I’m thinking for a starting point—I’m going to register for a sprint tri near the end of the summer (cough Nicole Danskin cough). I should probably put a bit more thought into this, but the fact is that I swim, “bike,” and run enough to where a sprint tri should really be no problem. However, like I said—it’s a starting point.

Now, this is still under some consideration, but as of right now—I am planning on signing up for a half Ironman next summer.

Yikes, just said it. Scary.

I know that the training is hard, but I know it’s exactly the kind of new challenge I’m looking for. I love the idea of block workouts (consisting of two endurance-related activities) and learning how to balance my energy over a long period of time. Additionally, I feel like this will keep my love for running alive and well by mixing up back-to-back marathon training cycles with something different.

Ultimately, I want to reach for something higher. Crazy, indeed, after my brush with casualty in the marathon two weeks ago, but this is honestly the way I operate. Yes, I got knocked down, but I know when I get up again (meaning, fully functioning IT band and absolved fear of running on hills) I am going to be stronger, smarter, and more anxious to challenge myself.

The thing I’ve taken away more than anything from that ill-fated race is that the brain and the body must always work in harmony; even when they’re fighting with one another, battling over pain versus persistence, we must know each of them well enough to know which to listen to. This is something I had lost touch with—and for the first time in my life, my mental game outweighed my physical capabilities. It’s one of the hardest parts of being an athlete, and it’s something I’m looking forward to exercising (pun intended) in my future endurance endeavors.

Oh, and I also took away the fact that I was a cocky little shit and the marathon is really, really, hard…no matter how well your first (or many) may have gone.

So there you have it Internet. This birdie is slotting July 2013 as the month of her first half Ironman, with some warm-up tris beforehand. I’ll write more on my approach to this endeavor when it’s not over a year away, but for now I’m excited to have something different on the horizon. And in the meantime, I’m looking forward to running soon.

Rest, rolling, ice, and froyo people—and your IT band will slowly but surely start to like you again.

Fingers crossed 🙂

Have you ever done a tri? Do you think there’s a difference between tri-people and marathon-people? Do you think I should probably go and buy that road bike already? Yea, me too.

Doing Things I Don’t Normally Do

I’m not going to jump to conclusions, and I’m certainly not one to live life in a “worst-case-scenario” kind of mind set. However, I am starting to internalize the fact that there will not be any running in my immediate future.

I am trying to live this day-by-day, mostly because I get too depressed if I think too far out, but also because I really don’t know how long this IT band issue is going to be, well, an issue. So, without a medically-officiated recovery timeline or any actual doctor advice whatsoever, I am deciding to do two things: take it one day at a time and  find the silver lining.

I will never, ever, be completely comfortable knowing that I’m unable to run. I am a runner, it’s so much a part of who I am, and when I’m unable to partake in my favorite activity, I feel scared and a little lost. I have come back from injuries before, I know I can and will get through them, but there is a stubborn seed planted deeply in my brain that cannot help but long for nothing more than a run. I know I am not alone in this type of thinking, and in fact I think most runners—once the sport gets under their skin—feel exactly the same way. I love running all the time, but nothing makes me really crave a run like being told that I can’t do it. 

So while the yearning and sadness is definitely there, I am finding that instead of drowning in a pit of “I’ll never run again” despair, I’m trying to take this as an opportunity instead of a set back. I think one of the biggest things we feel as injured runners is that all our fitness will evaporate if we take some time off, and we’ll have to start over as slow, wheezing couch potatoes. 

This is not true. Sure, you probably won’t be able to come back to running in marathon shape, maybe not even half-marathon shape, but it is absolutely possible to maintain your fitness and strength when you can’t run. I did not run a single step for three months last year…and four months after I was healed, I was running my first marathon. Please note that three of these months were spent training for the race.

I was certainly intent on keeping up my endurance during my injury period, which made the return to running much quicker, and I think it’s important for runners to remember that while the alternatives may not be as freeing or fun as a long, sweaty run in the sunrise—they will ultimately help you get back in your running shoes. And in fact—they can make your running better.

Which brings me to my current state of affairs. While I’m not sure how long I’m going to be out, and obviously I’m hoping for a short-term recovery as opposed to an extended period of time, I’m deciding to use this time to work on all the things I typically neglect. 

I’ve been finding myself doing things out of my regular routine recently, particularly exercise wise. And by “recently,” I’m being quite literal…as in, the last few days, seeing as I ran a marathon 9 days ago and only felt fully recovered this past weekend. The most effective “lemons into lemonade” mode of operation at this point is to do all the things I normally don’t do/can’t do when I’m logging heavy mileage. 

Although, Paul Rudd does give a viable option as well…

LOL

Anyways, bailing isn’t necessarily an option. I’ve invested too much money on running shoes, gear, and race registrations. Plus, I couldn’t give up even if I wanted to. So instead I’m focusing on these types of things:

-Leg strengthening

I think the last time I did anything close to a lunge was in high school track. Seriously. I never ever do any kind of weights regimen for my legs because I never want them to be sore for my runs. I always figured that I was getting enough leg strengthening through running, so I totally short-changed myself in the weights room department. NOTE TO ROBYN: Running targets certain leg muscles, but ignores others, leaving you SUSCEPTIBLE TO INJURY.

Okay, I did know this…I just figured spinning was making up for my lack of any hip/leg/glutes strengthening. And maybe it was helping, but nothing beats to power of honest-to-goodness lunges, squats, clams, etc. Give ’em to me baby, and please find someone to lift me out of bed when my legs don’t work afterward.

– Biking

I’m going to address this in an upcoming post, but my interest in taking up biking is reaching a peak. I currently have a nice little hybrid cruiser, which is fine for riding to the grocery store or around the neighborhood, but as for real-deal Lance Armstrong riding? No can do. I need to get a real bike if I want to be serious about this, and it’s something I’m committing to doing before summer really starts.

(This is your cue to keep me accountable!)

(I never ride my bike to the grocery store, or around the neighborhood. It sits by the side of my house 24/7. That previous statement was me pretending like my $300 Craigslist purchase was being used.)

– Arm, core, etc. things

I always like feeling strong, and although I definitely do arm and core strengthening work, my routine is somewhat hum-drum, and honestly…it’s probably becoming ineffective. Essentially, every other day I’ll do the same repetitions of the same exercises, with the same weight used, and I am fairly certain my body has become immune to it. I always loved the idea of really pushing my muscles to their potential and maybe achieving a bit more definition, however when all my exercise time is devoted to running—these things fall to the way-side. 

Look out Muscle Beach, I’m coming for you. Well, no, you’re in California, but you get the point.

-Yoga

I love yoga. I haven’t always loved yoga, and there was a period of time when I scoffed at all the asana-namaste-om-om-om-om-warrior 8 loving people out there. But a few good classes and magical instructors later, I was a born-again yogi, and I would really like to devote some energy into developing both the habit of going regularly and my skills on the mat.

Yoga is one of the reasons I think I’ve been somewhat injury-free for the past year, with the exception of these past two or so months (INTERESTING how the three weeks I didn’t go to yoga were directly followed by my knee bursitis). Frankly, yoga is normally done as a supplement to my other forms of exercise, and it’s really unappealing to go to a class after work when I’ve already spent two hours of my morning sweating. 

However, when I’m there, I love it, and not just for the sweet planks and stretching that happens. If you haven’t already taken notice (and if not I’m assuming this is your first time here—so HI!) I am a wee bit intense and competitive. Yoga takes me out of my “Must plan and get excited for everything that will ever happen ever!” brain for an hour and helps me focus on being in one place. I know this is the very basic level of yoga—being in the moment—but for someone like me, it takes a lot of effort and concentration to really get to that kind of present state of mind. When I do, though, I feel more grounded, centered, and calm—all good things.

Upping the yoga. Also, I stick mainly to level one classes…which is honestly due to laziness.  I know I can keep up with a higher level, and THANKS TO NOT RUNNING<—-did you see me say that??? I’m going to try and focus more energy on being hopped up on Zen.

What am I trying to say? Well, truthfully, I’m warning you that many of my upcoming posts are probably going to be complaining about being sore. That was the whole point of this post—warning you about my up-and-coming whine fest. 

…also a wine fest is something I don’t normally do that I think should happen asap.

Okay, that’s not really my point. Ultimately, I’m trying to spin this running-leave-of-absence into a positive. I know I am not always going to see it that way, and I am certain there will be some complaining along the way, but I’m trying. And for now, that’s really the best I can hope for.

On one final note, if there were ever a time to focus on all the other great things to do besides running, I think it’s right now. After catapulting myself into the ground during the Tacoma Marathon, I think this IT band rubbish may be a blessing in disguise. An opportunity to reconnect with the world outside of running, and to reestablish a healthier, less-medical-tent filled relationship with the sport I love so very much.

So running, you can sit on the shelf for now. And although I am going to stare at you longingly and lovingly, I want you to sit back and relax while I make acquaintances with things like heavy weights, side crow, and drenching every spin bike in my gym with glorious sweat. We’ll be back together at some point, and it’s going to be sweeter than ever. 

If you weren’t running (or perhaps you’re not?) what would YOU decide to focus more energy on? Rock-climbing? Zumba? Channel-surfing? Knitting? Having calves that actually fit into boots? Tell me! 

 

 

Swimming is Magic

I need to come out and say up front that I know I overreact, and I know my momentary hysterics of thinking I had a stress fracture was probably more exaggerated phantom pain than anything else.

BUT, there was pain there…and that’s part of why I need to offer up credit to the cross training gods and say…

Swimming is magic.

Before I was even hindered with the really bad shin splint on Sunday, I had planned on a long, leisurely swim for Monday. You see, swimming is an old favorite of mine—and the two of us have always gotten along well. Unfortunately, I’ve been neglecting the pool recently in favor of running and spinning, and my only excuse I can claim is laziness. It’s so lame really…but my only hesitation toward a pool workout stems from my aversion to getting in a suit and getting wet. It seems like so much more work than putting on regular workout clothes, and thus my poor goggles, cap, and swimsuit have been left alone in my pool bag from nearly a month.

I was very intentional about swimming on Monday for a few reasons, but mainly because I know how beneficial swimming is to my running, and subsequently my training. I think it was Lance Armstrong who said, “If you want to get stronger cardio-wise, go swim a mile in a pool.”

And you know, Lance is a little more credible than me.

A LITTLE.

It’s very true though. Swimming is positively incredible in terms of what it can do for your fitness. The practice of rhythmic breathing can make a substantial impact on your cardio shape in all other activities, and although swimming laps might seem easier than running—I would beg to differ. If you haven’t swam in a while, I challenge you to go and try swimming a mile; I think you’ll realize it’s a lot better of a workout than it’s given credit for. This is in large part due to the fact that swimming works every muscle in your body. No other activity can accomplish the all-around muscle activity that swimming does, and not only that—it’s all non impact. There’s a reason why people who have been injured in just about every sport are instructed to swim; it’s very easy on your body while still being a very quality workout.

Now, as I’ve said before—there was a time in my life when I had a big huge “running is the only decent workout” stick up my rear. And I admit, today I definitely would prefer running to anything else, however I will also vouch very favorably for cross training, particularly swimming.

Let’s back up to my former running life, when I was reckless and obsessive and demolished my hip.

(I know we’ve talked about this a lot recently, sorry about that.)

Because I decided to quite literally run myself into the ground, I had to accept a fate of cross training or no activity at all. Initially, right after I got hurt, even spinning and the elliptical were a bit too much for my bad hip. Enter, swimming.

I was never “a swimmer,” but I was a lifeguard for many years which means you need to at least be able to bust out a few laps. That said, as soon as I tried swimming with my bum hip, I realized something very quickly; not only could I do it, but it actually made my hip feelbetter.You see, I was so gimpy that I could barely walk—and I began to realize that the days I would swim were much easier to get through (in terms of walking around) than those when I didn’t. Also, when I was swimming it was the only time during the day where I couldn’t feel my injury.

Verdict from this experience?

Swimming=magic

Swimming helped me maintain my cardio shape well enough to jump back into running fairly seamlessly once I was recovered, and I credit swimming for mentally keeping me stable throughout my gimp-hood. There’s a very therapeutic element to swimming laps, and while the monotony can get a bit boring…I’ve found that I can do some of my best thinking while swimming: it’s forced silence that we rarely get to experience.

Oh I frankly can’t say enough, obviously.

I never can though, right?

Anyways, I just want to say that after my lovely 2 mile swim yesterday, I have reconfirmed my belief that swimming has real magical powers.

Remember the post where I decided that in my exercise love life, spinning was my mistress, yoga was the best friend, and running was my one true love? Right, well…if I could fit swimming into the mix, swimming would be the Gandalf. Or the Fairy Godmother, if you will. Yes, Fairy Godmother…I like that. While the other three all argue with each other, my Swimming Fairy Godmother is there to offer relief from the storm and quiet recovery.

And relief she offered.

I definitely was still feeling the shin splint all day yesterday, and even getting into the pool I was a little wary of any aggravation. While breast stroke proved to be a little tricky what with all the foot flexing, I found free style (my go-to stoke) to feel quite good and actually helpful. I ended the swim feeling great, and around 8 pm last night I realized…wait a minute, I can’t even feel the shin splint. Literally the entire day flexing my foot was painful, and just like that, all remnants of pain were zapped out of my leg.

Swimming! Magical Powers! I love my Fairy Godmother!

God I’m such a Disney kid. Sorry.

But for real…the proof gets better. This morning, still pain free, I decided to go along with my Tuesday morning run plan. I figured I would start, and if I felt any aggravations I would turn around and quit. And then all of a sudden…it was the end of my run, and I felt nothing. Nothing! And while it may have just been a seized shin splint that relaxed all at once, I’m giving the credit medal to my beautiful swimming friend.

Oh, and some credit should probably also be given to the fact that yesterday I worked FROM MY BED all day. I was horizontal for the vast majority of my work day (don’t judge…I was freezing and needed to be under my covers), and although I sort of felt like a slug when BF came home and I was literally in the same place he left me…it was worth it.

No more pain! And while I really super hope that this post hasn’t horribly jinxed me and my healthy body, I think it’s safe to end this with a resounding praise for swimming and its magical powers. And lying in bed all day.

Question: What activity do you think has magical powers? Anything goes! Frankly, I think that making chocolate cookies has a fairy-like effect as well.

 

Cocoon of Cross-Training

I had the full intention of writing a post today about how I’m feeling lazy, I’m cheating on running too often, and how I’m complaining but I shouldn’t be complaining because my life could be worse and blah blah blahhh.

However, the sun came out, my productivity has been stellar, and just like that my writing has switched gears.

Mostly.

I will admit that I have been cheating on running a bit too much recently, and while cross-training is great— it isn’t necessarily beneficial to increase the XT while decreasing the miles when marathon training. I think my problem is that I’m not actually following a strict running schedule for this bout of training, so I’m taking advantage of the mornings where I’d rather be inside than tromping around in the cold rain.

It’s silly really. I love running, and once I stop being such a baby and get my butt on the road I am always happier than when I decide to sit on a spin bike instead. However, the ability to constantly check the weather report and the promise of a hot and sweaty spin session from my favorite instructor seems to have derailed my undying love for the run.

You see, I live in Seattle. You knew that, and if not…let me fill you in on some of the facts I face on a day to day basis:

-It is dark

-It is rainy

-It is windy

-It is humid

(These are mostly only true for the winter months, but that’s where we’re at, so go with it)

These four factors make my strong willed runner self curl up in a pathetic “I don’t wanna!” fetal position. Okay, I’m exaggerating. I do normally (wo)man up and hit the road, but not without an internal grumble fest every time the temperature is below 40 and there is the potential for a little rain.

These past two weeks I’ve been really bad about it, and I’ve been swapping a few runs for a spin class/stair stepper workout that I (admittedly) love. It’s hard workout, I’m dripping by the end of it, and I can always tell myself that “it’s good cross training.” I also like that with spin, I don’t really have to will myself any further than getting on the bike seat. Once the class starts, I don’t really have to think and I just follow Jeoff’s militaristic screaming encouraging instructions.

However, I’m getting to the point where the only way I’m going to really up my mileage and get into serious marathon mode is by foregoing a bit of my cocoon of cross training. Sure, it is really good to alternate running with some other activities, but not necessarily when those activities are starting to replace runs. I think part of this has to do with the brain games my mind plays on me. If I know I have a 20 mile run on the weekend, I don’t want any part of me to dread doing it, so I save up my “running energy” in order to ensure that I can commit to the long run 100%.

Again, silly. I’m always happiest when I’m running more often. I think I get scared though that there will be a feeling of apathy toward running that I can’t shake. I love to thoroughly enjoy every run I go on, so I think I set myself up to make sure I’m anxious and ready to run every time. This is probably a good strategy for a non-training routine, however it’s time to get down to business.

So, to my mindless spin bike, my sweaty stair stepper, and my calming pool, I need to put you guys aside a bit. I’ll still hang out with you every so often, however running and I need to spend more  quality time with one another if my goals for Eugene are going to happen.

In other news, Lent starts today, and while I’m not Catholic—BF is, and he’s committing to do what I consider the impossible: He’s giving up sweets.

I think the only thing harder for me to give up than sweets would be giving up peanut butter, and I think this yearly practice of Lent just reminds me to hold on even tighter to the things I love. So much for sacrifice, huh? But I don’t like to think of the things I love as vices. I do have self-control, and there have been periods of time when I’ve given up these things for the sake of my health, so I know it’s do-able. Also, BF’s lack of sweets consumption will lower my own just by default, based on the fact that I have zero willpower when someone says, “Let’s get dessert” as my all-knowing, loving boyfriend often does.

So, I’ll look forward to when BF and I can once again go on late-night fro yo dates. But until then…

Girl Scouts are the February equivalent of Santa

Sorry babe. I guess I’ll have to make this a solo mission.

I hope you have a great Wednesday! Remember, tomorrow’s Thursday, which pretty much means it’s the weekend. Right? Good.

Questions: Do you worry about getting in a running rut? What types of cross training do you like to do? What is your favorite kind of Girl Scout Cookie?