Monday, December 17, 2012

A challenge in a time of darkness

Friday’s tragedy in Connecticut has the Internet and the airwaves abuzz with opinions on gun control, health care, politics and religion. I turned on the news for a brief moment, then quickly turned it back off when I saw that the media was sensationalizing the story and exploiting the families of the victims.  With a degree in PR, yes, I know that the public tends to gravitate towards stories and images that shock and horrify, but as a mother, I find myself instead craving words of warmth, love and hope.

My friend Lyndsay posted something on her Facebook page on Friday that resonated with me, and I couldn’t get it out of my head all weekend: “The best response to hate and hurt is more love and gratitude.”  There is so much wrong in the world that no one mortal person has the capability to right it all.  There is no magic switch we can flip to take away all the pain.  However, each of us has a light within us that we are capable of shining and potentially lighting the path for someone else.  One on one, we can work magic.  Sometimes all a person needs is a smile, a word of encouragement or a hug to make their situation just a teensy bit better.

For this reason, and many, many reasons, I am so looking forward to my upcoming journey to become a yoga teacher.  Yoga generates peace, warmth, hope, gratitude and confidence, and my hope is that I can share one (or all!) of those gifts with others on the mat to make their experiences off the mat just a little bit better.  My hope is that I can shine a little light on someone’s world.

I’m not saying yoga is the remedy for all that’s wrong in the world, not by a landslide. I’m just saying that by making a difference in ONE person’s life, yogis make a difference in MANY people’s lives because that one person will leave his or her practice with a renewed attitude that positively affects each person he or she comes in contact with.  Could yoga have saved the children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary? No. Could yoga potentially help heal some of the grieving parents, classmates, colleagues and friends? Possibly.  I challenge each of you to find a way to shine a little light on someone else today, whether on or off the mat.  Because you never know when someone might be feeling like they are all alone in the dark.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Six Degrees of Separation (or, why I'm the luckiest girl in the world)

I ran into a new running friend today in Zumba class. It was a funny coincidence, seeing her there rather than on the trails. I "met" this new running friend online through another running friend before I ever met her in person. The other running friend works at Big Peach Running Co and fitted me for shoes the first time I met him. Since then we've become good friends, and I see him every Tuesday night and Friday morning at the group runs he leads. A few of the people I've taken Zumba with before at the Y have joined these group runs. My favorite Zumba instructor is actually a runner and a friend now too, having completed 2 half marathons and about to run her third - a race I'll be at this week to cheer on another dear friend, and now I can cheer for her too.
Big Peach Marietta Tuesday night group run
Back to the store. While shopping at a different Big Peach about a year ago, I met another person who works there, but in a different capacity, and then became friends with her online. I run into her frequently at races and different events around town, and she always puts a smile on my face because she has the most infectious smile, ever. She introduced to me to Be Yoga and 2 instructors there who I absolutely love. Actually, in a roundabout way, she reintroduced me to Pilates (via one of those instructors) which I hadn't done in many years. This friend also introduced me to a clothing line (hello, Lululemon) and in turn, some new friends who work there.

I met another new friend at Big Peach when I, on a whim, went shopping there to buy a handheld hydration bottle. It's so funny, the random circumstances under which you can meet someone who may just turn into a very close friend and who you look forward to seeing every week. I adore my Big Peach friends and I hope I don't drive them batty by stopping by all the time just to chat. ;)
Bess and Kate
While training for my first half marathon last year, I met a group of super fun ladies who later invited me to join their running team this year, which I did. Through Team LUNA Chix, I had the opportunity to go to San Francisco, get a peek at the beautiful city and learn so much about running, strengthening and nutrition. I met some other LUNA Chix in different parts of the country who have become friends and we keep in touch online. I also became close friends with someone on the team who introduced me to The Bar Method, which I'm now doing regularly and starting to meet new friends in those classes, as well.
Team LUNA Chix
This friend and I, when we can, take yoga classes with an amazing instructor at Dance Stop Studios who has literally changed my life through her teachings - not only on the mat, but of the heart and soul. I discovered this teacher with another dear friend, who is also my neighbor, when we, on a whim, went to an open house where this instructor offered a trial class. This friend and I are also running buddies and have trained for and run races together. She is often the first person I'll call to share an accomplishment with or to commiserate with because we just GET each other.
Yoga instructor Lisa Flynn

Stacey & me
Back to my first half marathon.  That race was the catalyst for meeting some of the coolest chicks (and best friends) I could ever imagine.  My sister and I were ambassadors for this race along with 3 other women. One of them later joined Team LUNA Chix with me, and had a baby, so we're "mommy friends" now too and I adore her. I was actually quite intimidated by one of the other ambassadors and told myself we'd probably never be close because we had nothing in common. That person is now my very best friend. Through her, I've met another group of friends who are triathletes. I didn't even really know what a triathlon was before I met this friend...I knew it involved three sports but not in which order. Now, these friends are a big part of my life and we keep in touch almost daily even though we all live on opposite sides of town. I ran a race with some of them yesterday morning and turns out another one ran a race across town, and we all placed in our age groups and kicked butt. *fist pump*
Jennifer & me at the Peachtree Road Race

My BFF Mari

With Trisha after her first Ironman

Karen, Sarah & Kristi (us athletes like to chill, too!)
Back to the group runs. On Friday during my group trail run, I met two super fun women who are also moms and live close by. We had a great time chatting during the run and discovered we have some things in common, shared our contact info and promised to meet up for another run soon. I marveled, after that run, at how awesome it is to meet new friends.

If I were to do a "six degrees of separation" chart on all the active friends I know, it would likely take up an entire wall. How freakin' cool is that?! It amazes me how supportive and close Atlanta's (and little ol' East Cobb's) running and fitness communities are. I sometimes have to pinch myself when I start thinking about how lucky I am to have found them. I sometimes wish it hadn't taken me 30 something years to realize that I feel so much better when I'm being active...but then again, I have many years ahead of me to spend with my new friends.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Because I Got High (or, why I chose to run 10.2 miles 5 days after a half marathon)

I probably got a few looks during my run this morning.  Started off wearing neon pink arm warmers, so nobody on Roswell Road could possibly miss me as I climbed the hill from East Cobb Park to Robinson Road.  Then as I ran into Chick-fil-A for a quick pit stop, dripping with sweat and wearing a hydration belt, I stood out like a sore thumb in a sea of chicken biscuit munching patrons.  On a particularly fast and breezy downhill stretch towards the end, I waved my arms in the air and sang along to my iPod as cars whizzed by me.  Why did I choose to spend the better part of my morning running 10.2 miles around my ‘hood?  In the words of Afroman, “because I got high.”  *DISCLAIMER: We’re talking runner’s high here, people.  Just want to make that clear.

I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy non-training periods when you can just walk out your door, Garmin or no Garmin, and go for a run.  No distance, time or pace goals, even no particular route in mind.  That’s exactly what I did this morning.  Packed my Gatorade and nutrition JUST IN CASE, and went for it.  I wasn’t even keeping track of the miles, in fact I barely glanced at my Garmin until I got to an intersection where I though “Huh. I’m pretty freakin’ far from home right now. At least on foot.”  I went just a little bit further (apparently I like to push myself even when I don’t have to) and them promptly turned around and strided, shimmied and sang my heart out (er, legs out) all the way back home.

Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t the perfect run; I didn’t break any speed records or even PR for the distance; I made a water stop and I even stopped to stretch my calves a few times along the way.  But I ran at a pace that felt good to me and I caught that elusive runner’s high THREE TIMES.  Woot.  I watched the clouds give way to blue sky and sunshine, and I greeted a few other runners, walkers and bikers with a cheery “Good morning!”  After only a few miles my racing mind calmed down and gave way to a clear head and a sense of peace and calm that’s hard for me to find throughout the day.  I felt like I was flying on that last downhill, and my legs, though tired at the end, made me proud. 

Wait a minute – maybe this morning’s run WAS the perfect run.  Maybe the lack of self-induced pressure allowed my mind to quiet itself and my body to do its thing – impress me.  I am impressed with you, body, very much so.  And my mind has a new challenge in store for you very soon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

If you think you've done enough, do just a little bit more

Apparently that's what I like to do, after running a nice 5 miler yesterday with a dear friend, and then letting her talk me into running up a particularly steep hill, twice, just for kicks.  Kicks in the tookus.  And then, deciding I needed to lift, doing a powerful lower body set followed by 80 squats, and some abs for good measure.  Enough already, right?  Guess not.  When the husband got home later in the evening, he suggested the three of us go for a walk after dinner.  So we did.  Our walk turned into a trail run with the little guy who kept begging me to "run, Mama, run!"  How can I say no to that?  So, I probably tacked on another 2 miles running around with him, plus the walk back to our house.  Was I pooped last night?  A bit.  Was I sore this morning?  You betcha.  And it hurts sooooo good.

I've found that the times I see (er, feel) the most results shortly following a workout are when I've pushed myself beyond what I planned to do, or beyond what felt like enough.  How do we ever really know what IS enough?  In my opinion, you've gotta listen to your body.  If something hurts or feels off, it's probably a good idea to stop when you planned to stop.  But, if you're just feeling tired, 95% of the time your body can take more, so give it a little more and see what it does for you.  See you how feel the next morning.  See how you LOOK the next morning - you just might like what you see in the mirror.

Enough ISN'T always enough.  Push yourself and you'll be surprised at just how far you can go.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Scheduling time for exercise

My life is about to get a whole lot busier, at least for the next 9 weeks.  I've taken on a part time freelance gig that I honestly couldn't be more excited about...I'm over the moon with anticipation and glee and the thought of getting some precious office time and meaningful conversation with other adults, not to mention a chance to utilize my skills and talents outside of the child rearing realm.  Call me crazy, but I am SUPER excited at the prospect of going to work.

That being said, I just spent the last hour trying to put together a workout schedule for the next 9 weeks.  I'm on the verge of hitting "print", knowing that the schedule will likely change a gazillion times, but I'm the kind of person where if I don't have something scheduled on the calendar, it's not going to happen.  And not running or working out is just not an option.

So, over the course of the next 8 weeks (I decided the last week in May would be a good, solid time to end my schedule, rather then venturing into June), I will be running 3 times a week: on Mondays, I will alternate between a tempo run and a "fun run", where I intersperse things like pushups, mountain climbers, planks, lunges, etc. along the way.  On Wednesdays I will be running trails (woo-hoo!) and Saturdays will be my long run days.  I am also going to attempt a Pilates workout at home on Wednesday evenings.  Tuesdays and Thursdays will be Zumba and strength training, alternating between upper/arms and lower/abs.  On Fridays I will work on my yoga home practice and do the 20/20 workout or another HIIT type workout, and on Sundays I will do Pilates.  Sounds ambitious while working 20 hours a week and taking care of a 3 year old full time, no?  Well, ambitious I am.  And somehow, I will make it work.  It's just that important to me.

I would love to get advice and thoughts from those of you who juggle employment/parenthood/exercise on what has and hasn't worked for you.  I know I will have to be flexible, but I also know that exercise is a top priority.  So, how have YOU made it work?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Running trails in a skirt

There's something I like about running trails in a skirt.  Maybe it's the juxtaposition between rough and rugged and flirty and feminine.  Maybe it's feeling light on my toes as I leap over roots and branches, my skirt flapping in the breeze.  Maybe it's the surge of power that I get, knowing that beneath my girly purple skirt is a pair of strong legs capable of climbing the hills at a fast clip.  I didn't intend to run trails when I put on my running skirt the other day, but I traded the pavement for the path about 3/4 into my run and never looked back.

I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a girly girl, though I did go through the Laura Ashley phase many years back (c'mon, who didn't?)  Growing up I was more of a tomboy.  I played in the woods, had lizards for pets and chose softball over cheerleading.  I was never really into Barbies or princesses.  Instead, my heroes were Dale Murphy and Mary Lou Retton.  I could shoot a gun, hit a target and catch a fish.  I played a mean game of badminton and caught frogs in the back yard.

Don't get me wrong, I adore the color pink.  I could dance all night long.  I devour love stories like chocolate, and designer makeup is my guilty pleasure.  But sit me in a kayak or take me to a trail and I will feel right at home.  The sky will always be my roof and the dirt will always be my carpet.  I would happily give up TV forever in exchange for a cottage on the water.  I may wear a skirt when I run, but peek under my manicured toenails and you'll likely find some dirt.  That's just the way I like it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Trimming the fat, and my journey (gulp) in photos

Last night I got some fabulous news: I've lost 1.4% body fat since January.  I have a big green Post-It on my bulletin board that shows my weight and body fat percentage for every 3 months, beginning with January 3, 2011, which is when I got really, really serious about making a lifestyle change.  In one year and almost 3 months, I've lost a total of 5.1% body fat, which may not sound like a lot but is actually quite significant.

And, if you look at this chart from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), it shows that I've jumped from the "Average" category to the "Athletes" category. ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME?!"  It is SO unbelievably surreal to type that.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I'd ever be associated with the word "athlete" in ANY capacity whatsoever.  It's just SO bizarre and nutso, but in a very, very good way.

I was so astonished after seeing this chart that I Googled "body fat percentage women" and "body fat percentage women athletes" and came across this little ditty on "If you are interested in fine-tuning your body composition for fitness or athletic purposes, your perfect range is different from the normal range. For a female that is looking toward fitness, 21 to 24 percent body fat is ideal. If a female is looking to be as athletic as possible, 14 to 20 percent body fat is perfect."  Did I just read the word "perfect"?  I MUST be dreaming.

This amazing, awe-inspiring discovery aside, I still have a long way to go on my journey.  My journey isn't all about looking good in a bikini, it's about becoming strong, having lots of energy and setting myself up to avoid health issues in my later years.  Let's face it...those later years will be here before we know it.  I want to become a better, faster, more efficient runner.  I want to have the energy to keep up with my son who never stops moving unless he's asleep.  I want to walk into a store and buy clothes based on what I like, not based on what might cover my problem areas.  I want to feel confident in my own skin.  Is that too much to ask??  I think not - it just takes a lot of work.  For me, it takes 6 days a week of intense exercise, and I usually take a walk or do some type of active recovery on my rest day.  Are the results worth the effort?  Abso-freakin-lutely.

I was looking through some old pictures the other day, and came upon a few that made me cringe.  Much as I hesitate to post unflattering pics of myself, these are a testament to how far I've come in my journey to be fit, and a good personal motivator to continue on that journey towards my goals.  The first picture I'm sharing with you was taken just days before I became pregnant with my son, because in my mind, everything prior to that is a different chapter in my life.  Hell, it's a whole different book.  I hope that you'll continue on my journey with me, and be my cheerleader along the way, because sometimes it takes a village to build a strong mama.  Say the word and I'll do the same for you.  So come with me!  We got this.

7/26/08 - Just before I became pregnant with my son
5/15/09 - He was just 1 month and 12 days old

8/31/09 - Almost 5 months after giving birth to this lil' cutie.  I made good use of that jogging stroller the summer & fall after he was born!

4/13/10 - Was pretty psyched to fit into those shorts again
7/25/10 - This pic looks like a Cosmo magazine "don't"!  My weight used to fluctuate so much.

11/9/10 - Lost a bit of weight & bought these new jeans

4/24/11 - Had trained for a half marathon Jan-Mar, and drastically changed my eating habits in March.  Donated the new jeans I bought in the fall to Goodwill & was able to buy a size smaller in these shorts!

8/9/11- Hadn't fit into this dress since 2006.  It used to be form fitting but it's baggy on me now.

9/3/11 - Zooma half marathon training kickoff!

11/2/11 - 9 or 10 weeks into training

2/15/12 - 1 month out from the Publix Georgia Half Marathon

3/28/12 - 10 days after the half marathon & feeling confident enough to actually take a pic like this! 
My goal.  Slowly but surely, I'm getting there!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Shaking it up!

With my latest half marathon behind me, and my next one (ahem) 5 months away, I am ready to shake up my workout routine a bit - okay, a lot - and see what kinds of results I can get.  I've learned that the best way to move past a plateau or see a change in myself is to change what I do.  So, I plan to do a little experimenting and hopefully have lots of fun, sweat and laughs (not necessarily at my expense) along the way.

Right now, my weekly routine looks something like this:
Monday - yoga / run
Tuesday - Zumba
Wednesday - strength / run
Thursday - Zumba
Friday - strength
Saturday - long run
Sunday - rest (usually involves a walk; sometimes I do my long run on Sunday & rest/walk on Saturday.)

My strength workouts consist of Cybex machines, free weights, squats, lunges (sometimes), and a core routine that varies but usually includes some combination of planks, crunches, situps and the medicine ball.

I don't want to give up yoga and I don't want to give up Zumba.  I can give up some of the miles in my running, but I don't want to lose too much momentum and have to start at square one for half marathon training.  I'm thinking about perhaps incorporating an interval type workout into one of my weekly runs, where at various "stations" I'd stop to do pushups, mountain climbers, burpees, planks, etc.  That fun routine always incites lots of comments and looks of sheer horror from joggers and walkers along the route.  I could also turn one of my weekly runs into a trail run; in fact, one of my fitness goals for the year is to spend more time in the woods, and honestly, trail running uses some different muscles (not to mention mental agility!) that road running doesn't, so I'd likely see some results from it.

What I REALLY want to explore is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), like the Tabata method, CrossFit, Blast 900, etc.  I keep hearing and reading that interval training involving fast, powerful bursts of energy with very brief recovery periods is the golden ticket to burning fat.  I am also dying to try TRX at the Y and Barre Sculpt at Dance Stop to see if I can gain more definition in my muscles. Oh, and Piloxing...I almost forgot how much I loved the trial class I did late last year!  A pilates/kickboxing combo?  Does it get any better than that??

If time and money were no object, I'd join all the local studios and take classes every day.  Fortunately, there are free trial classes available for most everything, and even more fortunately, I have the Hot Mama's Definitive Guide to High Powered, Fat Burning, Muscle Sculpting Workouts from my friend Stacey.  (The title is my brainchild - you can thank me later, Stace.) Time to print those pages out, maybe invest in a Gymboss & hit the gym! 

Seriously, though, it's high time for me to get creative and put together a new weekly routine that will have me ready for pool season in approximately 2 months.  Any suggestions or advice you may have, bring it - I love to learn from the best.  Happy HIIT-ing!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Making time for exercise

I am getting ready to run for the first time since my half marathon 6 days ago.  I promised myself a week of rest, and though I was on the verge of breaking that promise several times this week, I decided against it due to the insane amounts of pollen we've had.  Thankfully the rains came and finally washed most of it away!

This past week, with no running and very little other exercising on my agenda, I found myself spending lots of time doing the one thing that I tend to give up to make time for running and exercising - cleaning.  This week I have vacuumed, mopped, dusted, scrubbed, polished, washed, dried and organized 'til my hands are callused.  Unfortunately, with a husband, a small child and two cats in the house, the lovely luster won't last long, but I feel like I've given my best at a thorough Spring cleaning.

We don't live in squalor or anything like that, and I do tend to pick up and clean up in small amounts as I go.  If you came to my house on any given day, you may not even notice that the kitchen table could use a wiping or the hardwoods have leaky sippy cup stains.  But, do you really expect my house to be spotless all the time?  Truthfully, when I go to someone else's house who has a family, I am secretly relieved to see that it's not in tip-top shape.  Seeing a rogue stuffed animal tucked into the couch or a sprinkling of dust on a lampshade makes me feel better about my own less-than-perfect home, because it's REAL.  And, it helps me remember that there is no such thing as a Supermom; we're all just doing the best that we can.

In all honesty, giving up cleaning to make time for exercise makes me a BETTER mom and wife.  I'm more energetic, more patient and more happy.  Hail to the dust bunnies, I say! 

 I'm curious - what do you give up to make time for exercise in your busy life? 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why running a half marathon is like having a baby (minus the morphine)

I had an "oh God, no" moment of panic when I was training for my first half marathon last year.  I had gotten up to about 7 or 8 miles in my training, and I was starving all the time.  I was also tired a lot, and going to bed at 9 and 10:00, and I thought I was a little bit more emotional than normal (that may have just been in my head.)  So, the novice half marathoner that I was, I figured I must be pregnant.  That thought sent waves of panic and anxiety through my nervous system (which was very, very nervous, mind you,) because I certainly wasn't TRYING to get pregnant; I'm not even sure I want another child.  I took a pregnancy test, wished with all my might that no double line would appear, and I got my wish.  PHEW!  Decidedly NOT PREGNANT.  I still wondered what the heck was wrong with me!  Turns out, as all you distance runners know, I had merely reached the point where I was expending so many calories during my long runs that I simply needed to up my intake of calories throughout the day.  In layman's terms, I needed to EAT MORE.  Lots more.  It was after this discovery that I started noticing the parallels between training for a half marathon and being pregnant; and after the race, I marveled at how much the whole process was not entirely unlike giving birth.  Not yet convinced?  Read on.

The Countdown: What's one of the first things you do when you find out that you're pregnant?  You determine the due date and start counting weeks.  After registering for a big race (gulp), you put it on your calendar and create or find a training plan.  Just like you are "12 weeks pregnant", you are "8 weeks into your plan".  There's a lot of glancing at the calendar, counting backwards and counting forwards involved in both, and a big fat star or smiley face or whatever you prefer on your calendar marking the DUE DATE or the RACE.

The Insatiable Appetite: Shortly after becoming pregnant, and most especially during those first 3 months, you find yourself raiding the fridge and stashing snacks in your bag before you leave the house. Same thing with distance training.  I filled a gallon sized Ziplock bag with LUNA minis and kept it in my car so when the hunger would strike, I wouldn't be tempted to pull into the nearest drive thru and snarf down french fries and a Coke Zero.  (Oh, come to Mama, you salty, bubbly, perfect-but-not-perfect-for-you snack!)  I took snacks with me EVERYWHERE.  Same thing when I was pregnant.  My Coach purse may as well have been a picnic basket.

The Narcolepsy: Also in those first 3 months, and often in the last month of pregnancy, you tend to walk around like a zombie because you just can't get enough sleep.  The baby is sucking all your energy and all you want to do is lay your head down on your desk and take a snoozer right in the middle of the workday.  (Um, I may have, ahem, done this on occasion when I was pregnant and working.  Thank goodness for an office door I could close.)  This happens sometimes in training, as well.  Those runs and workouts take a lot out of you, and though they may leave you feeling extra energized and perky immediately afterwards, at some point they are going to catch up with you and send a message to your body that says "I MUST REST."  It's usually during the most inconvenient times, like on a Saturday afternoon following a long morning run, when your body wants to hit the hay and you have grocery shopping/cleaning/laundry/cooking/taking care of child type things to do.

The Wardrobe: A sometimes fun, sometimes not perk of pregnancy is the necessity of buying a whole new wardrobe.  Maternity clothes - you gotta have 'em.  Thankfully these days, maternity clothes don't look like the tents that our mothers wore back when they were pregnant with us.  You can show off your baby bump and the rest of your curves in style, thanks to my personal favorite, Gap Maternity, among others.  Just for kicks, check out the pic to the left - this is me, just over a month before I gave birth to the lil' guy, dressed in Gap Maternity, of course.  Holy bajeesus, I was huge!  I discovered when I began training for my first half marathon that I, too, required an entirely new wardrobe of running clothes.  Okay, that may be just the TEENSIEST bit inaccurate; I MIGHT have squeezed by with the two or three pieces I already had, but if you're gonna spend that much time running and you don't want to do laundry every single day, nor have your running partners see you in the same pair of tempo track shorts and tank at every single group run (the horror!), then you have to fork out some dough on new technical gear.  I swear to you, shopping for running clothes is 10 times more thrilling to me than shopping for any other type of clothes.  Seriously.  The brighter, the better.

Last summer I even purchased a running skirt, the likes of which I had previously scoffed at, until I found this one on sale, tried it on, and did a little dance around the fitting room.  I was oh so pleasantly surprised with how it made my lower half look.  I was even more pleasantly surprised at how it felt when I was actually running - no riding up, no worries!  (Does this skirt make me look fast?)

The Temple: And by that I mean, the body.  I'd get a little weirded out whenever people joked that my body was a "sacred vessel" when I was pregnant, but in a way, it's true.  I mean, you are carrying around a living human being in your tummy, so you have to take pretty darn good care of your body if you have any hope of that living human being turning out okay.  You (usually) pay close attention to what you eat, your doctor monitors your weight gain, you keep track of the baby's developmental progress and you feel the changes that occur in your own body along the way.  At times, your body HURTS.  Same, for the most part, goes for half marathon training.  You may not be carrying around another life form in your gut, but you have to nurture, protect and prepare your body just the same.  Your body changes over the course of the training; at least mine did.  Both times.  I also discovered that it's not unusual to actually GAIN weight when nearing race day because you are consuming so much food!  (Don't worry, you will sweat it all out during the actual race.  And then some.)  Also, your body hurts.  You discover aches and pains in places you never knew COULD produce aches and pains, but you just keep focusing on that D-Day (or, R-Day), your light at the end of the tunnel.

The Rituals: Pregnant women have some strange rituals that we do while pregnant, that we'd not be caught dead doing when we're not.  Like sleeping with a pillow the length of another person between our legs.  Eating strange food combinations (though I never personally experienced that one).  Treating ourselves to a Chick-Fil-A chicken biscuit after every single OB/GYN appointment because A. it was across the street, and B. it was a reward for making it through yet ANOTHER hassle of an appointment or for seeing the little guy's cute button nosed profile on the ultrasound.  Okay, maybe that last one was just me.  Runners have rituals, too.  We eat weird stuff like little squares that have the consistency of a gummy bear (LOVE my blueberry pomegranate Gu Chomps) and pour gooey flavored liquids, aptly named Gu Energy Gel, down our throats, all in the name of energy and electrolytes. 

Some of us have adopted a rather odd ritual that I believe has saved me and my tight muscles many, many times - the ice bath.  A funny story: so many times I've been faced with the conundrum of what to do first when I get home from a long run - eat, or take an ice bath?  While I'm sitting in the bath I often dream of having a big, steaming hot platter of food in front of, seriously.  It's more like a mirage, like seeing a pond in the middle of the dessert.  A few weeks ago after a particularly strenuous 11 miler, when I remembered 3/4 of the way into it that I had forgotten to eat lunch, I was so discombobulated when I got home that I literally could not decide what to do first.  So, I made a sandwich and cracked a hard boiled egg, and ate my entirely too late lunch WHILE I WAS SITTING IN THE ICE BATH.  It was like a distance runner's dream come true.  Also, I never noticed until now just how eerily corpse-like my feet with blue nail polish look in this photo.

The Big Day: I find myself most amused at the similarities between the days/hours leading up to the birth of a child, and those leading up to a race.  There are nerves.  There are doubts.  There are thoughts of "Fortheloveofgod, why did I sign up for this?!"  For me, there are little calming and relaxing rituals I perform the day before like deep breathing, meditating and even a little praying.  I had a scheduled C-section so I knew exactly when it was going to happen and I could mentally prepare, much like I do for a race.  During the race itself, you go through physical and mental trials and pain, highs and lows, suffering and bliss, much like (I assume) you do during labor.  At the end, you've given birth to a huge personal accomplishment, and sometimes, even, a PR.  You wear that medal proudly around your neck and you are equally exhausted and exhilarated, just like after delivering a baby.  Okay, maybe not JUST like it, but work with me here.  Both things are a pretty big freakin' deal and you're pretty freakin' worn slap out after it's over.

The Recovery:  Once you arrive home from the hospital, you have to treat your body very gingerly over the next few weeks (or months.)  For me, after a C-section, I had to avoid stairs as much as possible in the first few days.  I avoid stairs as much as possible in the days following a half marathon too.  After my child was born I had to nurse my body back to its normal functioning state.  I had to go slow.  Parts hurt and parts just didn't feel right.  Same after a big race.  Right now not only are my calves sore, but my back and shoulders feel like I just competed in a heavyweight lifting competition.  Not sure what's up with that, but it comes with the territory, I suppose.  In any case, I'm giving myself a full week to recover before I hit the pavement again.  (I think.  This amazing 80 degree sunshiny, humidity free weather has me itching to lace up my Ghost 4s again.)

So there you have it, folks.  Still not convinced?  Well, my childless running friends, I'm not gonna tell you to go off and have a kid, but I will gladly encourage my mommy running friends to sign up for a distance race that's outside of your comfort zone and see how it feels.  The similarities are striking, really.  Now, I'm gonna go hang my finisher's medal around my little guy's neck and give them both a big squeeze, because I'm pretty darn proud to have given birth to both of them.  Pain and all.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The runner's insatiable appetite (or, why I may not survive the next 13 hours)

Things I have consumed today:
1 cup of coffee
2 Van's Light Waffles, toasted, topped with bananas, strawberries & maple syrup
1 hard boiled egg
1 Luna mini
1 homemade buffalo chicken wrap
handful of almonds
1 cup of green tea
another Luna mini
low fat cheese & crackers
steak, roasted fingerling potatoes and spinach
lots and lots of water

And this was a good day.  As I may have mentioned before, once I get up to about 7 or 8 miles in my training, I get ravenous.  All the time.  I'm like a scavenger, rooting around in the back of the fridge with a flashlight, clawing my way past the milk and the condiments to get my hands on any morsel of food that I can safely consume.  Wait - are olives considered condiments?  I hope not, because I have been known to chow down on those salty little suckers in a state of desperation.  I Just. Can't. Get. Enough.

The good news is, 98% of the food in our pantry and fridge is healthy, so I can't dive headfirst into a bag of chips.  Though trust me, I've dreamed about it.  Mmmmm...sour cream and onion....oh, sorry.  And the 2% that's not exactly on the food pyramid are foods I wouldn't want to consume anyway, like Finding Nemo fruit snacks and some weird, questionable ethnic something-or-others that the husband stores on the very top shelf.

The bad news is, it just occurred to me that due to a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning at 9:15, I can't eat ANYTHING after midnight tonight, meaning no breakfast.  Holy mother of Chobani, I'm gonna starve.  Wither away.  I may actually faint on the way to the doctor's office, which would be quite convenient, because the good EMS folks could just wheel me there and dump me off, and there'd be no more need for a physical since upon first sight of my limp body, the diagnosis would be "CRAZY COMPULSIVE EATER/RUNNER".  Why, FORTHELOVEOFGOD, did I schedule a physical for a week and half before a half marathon?!  I must've been out of my mind!!!

That being said, as I wipe the beads of nervous sweat from my brow (oh crap, are those precious electrolytes leaving my body?  Must replenish!) this should, fingers crossed, be the best darn physical I've ever had because, at the ripe old age of - wait, you don't really expect me to divulge that, do you? - I'm probably in the best physical shape of my life.  GO, ME!  Now, on to packing a lunch bag (duffel bag, maybe?) of post-bloodwork snacks that I can nom nom nom on the minute the nurse pulls the needle out of my vein.  PB & honey, anyone?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fast runs and an F1 - a surreal weekend

Something happened that threw a wrench in a beautiful 4 days of running and playing outdoors.  We had amazing weather here in Atlanta last Thursday, when I ran a near perfect 8 miler, solo, at sunset.  Nothing but me and the music.  It was glorious.  On Friday I enjoyed a much needed yoga class (the best kind of recovery), an afternoon of playing outside with the boy and our first family dinner on the deck.  On Saturday morning, I opted out of running the Vision Trek 10K Trail Race due to my left knee that's been giving me fits from time to time, and instead, volunteered at the halfway point aid station.  I had the pleasure of cheering on the runners and spending some fun quality time with the other volunteers.  Then today, my friend Stacey and I battled rolling hills and strong winds, and emerged victorious after a fast (for me) 10 miler.  Truly, a near perfect extended weekend.  Except on Friday night, an F1 tornado just barely missed our house.

Some of you who have known me for a long time may remember my intense fear of tornadoes.  They have always, in fact, been my biggest fear in life, for some unknown reason, and Friday night was probably the closest I've ever come to one.  The thing that freaks me out the most is that in the hours leading up to its touchdown, we had no rain, no storms, no wind, nothing really out of the ordinary, save for some lightning in the distance.  Then all of a sudden the hail hit, out of nowhere.  It was so loud and we moved so fast to get downstairs to the basement that we didn't quite realize what was happening.  The power went out, and our windows in the basement are covered so we had no idea what was going on outside.  Turns out, the tornado took out a few of our neighbor's trees and a big section of their fence in the backyard, and another huge tree across the street 2 houses down.  Then it took out 20 or so trees (if I had to guess) at the park just down the street that we walk to all the time.  All in a matter of seconds.  I think it's probably a good thing it happened so quickly that I didn't even have time to process what was actually happening, or I might've gone into full on uncontrollable panic and hysteria mode.  In fact now, 2 nights later, as thoughts creep into my mind about what happened, I push them away so as to not freak myself out even more.  Thank God everyone is safe and none of our homes were damaged.  I've said this before and I'll say it again: Mother Nature is a powerful force, a force to be reckoned with.  Respect her.  Don't question her.  And don't wait 'til the last minute to take cover from her.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fitness and advertising: 2 of my great loves

As some of you know, my background is in advertising.  I've worked on some pretty cool brands like Coca-Cola, Publix Super Markets, M&M/Mars, and the incestuous trifecta of Cingular Wireless, BellSouth and AT&T.  I'd like to think that I can recognize a good ad campaign when I see one, and over the past 3 days I have seen not one, but two.  I'm a rather tough critic so this is nearly unheard of. 

On Wednesday, I discovered an Athleta catalog in my mailbox.  I've never worn Athleta before, but somehow I must've recently gotten on the mailing list for "clothes that you covet but cannot afford", because catalogs have been showing up left and right, taunting me with their bright colors.  I poured over the catalog for a solid 30 minutes, dog-earing pages and devising endless combinations of swimsuit tops and bottoms in my head.  The thing that impressed me the most, however, aside from the gorgeous colors, prints and flattering cuts, was the models themselves.  Athleta got smart.  They didn't use skin and bones, toothpick looking waifs to model their swimwear, rather they shot strong, toned, sculpted, highly athletic women who also just happen to have naturally beautiful faces that don't need to be made up with neon lips and glittery eyes.  These women look REAL.  And gorgeous.  And much like the woman I aspire to be. 

So, my appetite piqued, I went online to Athleta's website and clicked the "play" button on the video on their homepage.  I was blown away.  I don't know if it was the Led Zeppelin-esque riff of the music (sounds a whole lotta like "Whole Lotta Love" to me), the beautiful, tropical scenery or the models running, yoga-ing, paddling and biking, but it made me want to get out of my seat, get outside and get moving.  And order hundreds of dollars of clothes (note to self: start playing the lottery) from Athleta.  It made me want to proudly wear their brand.  Amazing!

Check out some of their ads from the "Power to the She" campaign:

And, I stumbled upon this writeup from Adweek.  Maybe my ol' good advertising radar still works after all.

Athleta also has a robust online community and blog called Athleta Chi.  Check it out and dare yourself not to get sucked in.  It appears that they have a sponsorship program, where athletes can apply to be sponsored by Athleta.  From what I've learned about the brand and the philosophy, I am dying to be a part of it, and I'll be checking back every day for news about when applications for the 2013 sponsorship program will open.  A lofty aspiration, yes?  Just so happens that this Mama has had some pretty lofty fitness aspirations in the past and kicked booty at them, so why not?

The other ad that I came across today in my new Runner's World magazine (hooray for weekend reading material!) is this one from Lululemon:

I love this ad because it's talking directly to me.  It put a knowing grin on my face when I read it, and I'm going to post it to my Pinterest board AND to my physical, old school bulletin board hanging on the wall in my home office.  It's just perfect.  As a runner and a yogi, Lululemon hit the nail on the head.

It gives me great joy when I see good examples of my two loves married to each other.  This old ad geek will always have creative flowing through her body, and sometimes I wonder whether fine tuning this body helps me fine tune my creative juices, as well.  Wouldn't surprise me a bit.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My discovery (or, how I keep myself sane)

I've discovered that my attitude is in direct correlation to my activity level.  Sedentary = crabby.  Active = happy.  For the most part.  Exceptions do occur, such as being sedentary at the beach.  Vacation is a whole different mindset.

I discovered this today, when my plans for a grand "Tour de Chattahoochee River Area Parks" with the lil' guy were washed away by drizzle, wind and cooler than predicted temps; unfortunately, got it wrong again.  So, the toddler and I stayed home.  ALL. DAY. LONG.  I was okay when we were doing activities like reading, or playing trains, or constructing a NASCAR-esque race track for Matchbox cars out of a hula hoop, and when I was busy cooking or cleaning up.  During the lulls, like when said toddler refused to take a nap and I allowed him to watch Thomas and Berenstein Bears instead, I was bored outta my skull and grumpy.  When I decided on an impromptu game of "Hot Potato" using first a balled up sock, then a bouncy ball, then an actual potato (not hot, mind you), and we really got into it, running around the living room and tossing the objects back and forth, I was happy as a clam.  See?  Physical activity = one happy mollusk mama!

All day I was looking forward to Zumba tonight as an excuse to get me out of the house and burn off some pent up energy (and calories).  Oh yeah, and as an excuse to dance.  Barely 30 minutes into class, one of the staff members from the Playcenter at the Y came to get me and said the lil' guy was really upset.  I found him red faced with huge tears streaming down his cheeks, and he ran to me and clung to my leg.  Let me tell you that this NEVER happens.  In fact I don't think it has EVER happened, not even when he was much younger.  Turns out he was okay, just wanted his Mama for some unknown reason, but who can argue with that, right?  Nonetheless, I had to stop mid-merengue, put my mommy game face back on and walk out of there, dripping ponytail and all, carrying my 30-something pound mama's boy.  I was NOT happy.

So, my mood having turned from euphoric to bitter, I went home, performed the required amount of snuggling and put the lil' guy to bed.  Then I sat down with a glass of water and a catalog and tried to relax.  Nothin' doin'.  It didn't work.  I was angry, frustrated, and just generally PO'd that my precious hour of endorphin releasing cardio had been taken away from me.  STOLEN.  So, I got in the car, made the 5 minute drive (I may have run there if it weren't dark!) and marched my still slightly sweaty booty back into the Y.

After an hour and a half of weights, the medicine ball, a pilates ring (thank you, Lord, for that brilliant invention), some quality stretching and a few yoga poses, I was back to my old happy, bouncy, nothing-can-phase-me self.  Mission accomplished.  And realization discovered.  I. Need. Activity.  Unless I'm sleeping, or unless my toes are dug deep into the sand.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Roll (and run) with the changes

Often, if you want to see change in yourself, you have to make a change.  The countdown is on to my 2nd half marathon on March 18th, and I'm feeling the need to "buckle down", as my dad would say, and do everything I can to enhance my performance.  I'm also feeling the need to whittle my waistline a bit with Spring around the corner.  This blog from my friend Mari and a conversation we had about it inspired me to make the decision to cut out all alcohol during the week, initially, and see if that makes a difference in both performance and belly.  If I'm not a stark raving looney tune after this week, I may cut it out on the weekends, too, until after the race.  *Disclaimer: I realize this makes me sound like I may have a problem with alcohol, but I don't.  The only problem I have with it is all the empty calories.

So, I'm thinking I may need to find something else to help me wind down after the wild child goes to bed, and all suggestions are appreciated.  Decaffeinated green tea, perhaps?  Pull out the mat and strike a few impromptu yoga poses?  Watch some mindless TV, which I rarely ever do?  Help me out, people!

Another change I've recently made is to eat more bananas and drink green tea.  I never really liked the taste of green tea until I discovered you can get it in many different flavors; my current favorite is this one:

And yes, it's a subtle nod to my Facebook habits (wink, wink).  I read somewhere that beyond all the other benefits green tea boasts, it is a powerful metabolism booster, and after drinking it for a couple of weeks now, I believe it!  Bananas help fight belly bloat and are, of course, loaded with potassium.  Plus, at the exact peak of ripeness, they are just so yummy.  Particularly sliced over a toasted piece of Publix Whole Wheat Mountain Bread with a shmear of peanut butter, and a drizzle of honey on top.  My favorite pre-run breakfast.

Other changes I'm making over the next 3 weeks are to increase my carb intake (hello, whole grain pasta!), increase my water intake, make sure I'm in bed no later than 11pm every night and find some new tunes to add to my running playlist.

A quick aside, speaking of water intake, I recently stumbled upon a recipe (I suppose you'd call it that?) for berry infused water.  I made it last week and can't get enough of.  You just take a pitcher and fill it with cucumbers, mint, lime, strawberries and blueberries, and over time it becomes the most delicious flavored water you could ever dream of.  Slightly sweet, crisp and refreshing.  Try it!

I'm curious, what kinds of changes do you make in the weeks leading up to a big race?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friends in low places...and high places, and slow places, and fast places

Tonight I had the pleasure of experiencing a candlelit yoga class.  It was absolutely magical, and I wish it could've lasted all night long.  Some of the magic carried over to the fabulous wine and cheese reception after class (a Friday night that includes yoga and wine?  Sign me up!) where I talked to some dear friends, friends I've made through running and yoga.  As I was driving home, I found myself thinking about all the friendships I've made over the past year with like-minded people who devote as much time as I do, and in many cases, much more, to living an active lifestyle.  Getting to know somebody who has the same passions is such a thrill for me - I eat it up.  Getting to know someone while experiencing that thrill together - maybe during a run, at the gym or after a yoga class, is even more fun.  And, I have a feeling that some of the friendships I've made that are just beginning to blossom and grow may be some of the deepest friendships I'll have throughout my lifetime.  At least I hope so.  It's good to have friends who are a positive influence on your life, and who motivate you, inspire you and push you.  It's nice to have someone to talk to about all the things nobody else wants to hear about.  And, it's nice to commiserate with someone who "gets it" when you need a shoulder to lean on (sometimes physically)!

What's that famous quote, the one that goes something like "people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime?"  Right now is my season of healthy, active, positive living, and I plan to carry it over into the rest of my lifetime.  I'll need a lot of help from my friends to do it, so I hope you're all on board - you know who you are - because it's gonna be one helluva ride.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dreams come in different sizes and seaglass colors

I have been dreaming a lot lately.  Daydreams.  The kind that encompass you and make you forget what you were doing, in a good way.  95% of them involve the beach, so I'll admit I have a serious case of Spring fever.  I will share a few of them with you.  For those who know me well, they will likely come as no surprise, and for those who don't, well, here's your opportunity to climb inside my imagination and get to know me a bit.

In no particular order, the Things I Dream About:

Sunset at Santa Rosa Beach, FL
- Living at the beach and teaching sunrise and sunset yoga on the sand.

Santa Rosa Beach, FL

- Living at the beach and writing a book. *I've had this dream for as long as I can remember.

Martha's Vineyard, MA

- Buying an historic cottage in coastal New England (this one would do) and renovating it.  Then living out the dreams listed above.

Charleston, SC

- Owning a beach house where one half of it is living space, and the other half is either retail space for antiques and found goods, or an art gallery.  Preferably with beach inspired art from local artisans.  One of these could work.

Martha's Vineyard, MA

- Owning and running a bed and breakfast at the beach.  Something like this.

Chattahoochee River in Roswell, GA

- Becoming a yoga instructor here in my hometown (really? no beach involved?) and teaching in beautiful outdoor settings, particularly along the river.  *Okay, at least there's a water theme.

- Writing for a fitness magazine of some sort.

- Writing anything that will make me money.  *This is a dream that I'm really working on!

Other, more fleeting daydreams include becoming a broadway dancer, a personal trainer, an astronaut, and a closet filled with nothing but J. Crew and Lululemon.

What do you dream about?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Burritos, burgers and bloat - the trifecta of eating out

When I woke up this morning, I wasn't greeted with the flatter-than-normal belly that usually occurs first thing in the morning; rather, I mistook my tummy for a blowfish and thought surely I was still dreaming.  Didn't we just watching "Finding Nemo" recently?  That had to be it.  I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, brushed my teeth and realized I was very much awake, and very much bloated.  But why??  Oh...could have something to do with the three restaurant meals that I ate over the past 3 days.  Shucks. 

We almost never eat out.  Part of that is because we have a toddler, and for those of you with kids, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Part of it is because we are on a budget, and part of it is because we like to eat healthy.  Generally speaking, with a few exceptions, eating out does not equal eating healthy.  Sometimes, however, when you are just too tired to cook or when you are toddler-free for a night, or when you've just run the most grueling 6 miles of your life, you gotta do it.  Let somebody else cook for you.

So, Friday night we had burritos from Willy's...mine with a whole wheat tortilla, only a smidgeon of rice, black beans, steak, a sprinkling of cheese (I can't resist entirely), salsa and guacamole.  I know, shoulda held the cheese and guac but then it's a pretty boring burrito, dontcha think?

Saturday we treated ourselves to Five Guys.  I had a cheeseburger with every topping I could possibly dream of, and some of the husband's fries.  Nuff said.

Sunday we had Thai takeout.  Red curry with beef and basil rolls.  The coconut milk in the curry was definitely NOT light.

So, come Monday morning, I felt like a deer who had spent all weekend enjoying a salt lick, and looked like a pot bellied pig.  I'm not really exaggerating here, folks.  I even considered looking up the nutritional information for everything I'd eaten all weekend, but decided against it because I KNOW it was bad.  I don't need a bunch of numbers to tell me so.  I don't really feel guilty because it was my choice - nobody was holding that 5 pound burrito to my head and saying "EAT UP!" - I paid for it and scarfed it down myself.  What I do know is that this week, ALL week, I need to clean up my act and do some food detox, which will include LOTS of water, bananas to help counteract the bloat, green tea to boost my metabolism, and tons of fresh fruits and veggies.  The mere thought of processed food makes me want to barf right now.

It's no wonder that not too many years ago, before said toddler came into the picture and the husband and I were both working full time jobs, we ate out a lot.  I'd wager to say that the majority of meals were eaten out.  It's no coincidence, either, that I put on 15+ pounds.

I do know there are exceptions, and some restaurants offer healthier options, but that's just it - the so-called healthier options are not necessarily healthy, they are just slightly less terrible for you than the regular menu options.  Don't believe me?  Look up the nutrition info for some of your favorite sit down restaurant or fast food dishes.  It's easy to find online.  If you are really looking to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, stave off health issues like diabetes and high cholesterol or just generally take good care of your body, then do yourself a favor and cook your own meals.  Then treat yourself every now & then to a meal that someone else has cooked.  Just maybe not three in one weekend.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A humbling run

"Don't fall down the mountain."  "Just keep moving."  And lots of curse words that I dare not repeat here.  Those were my mantras this morning as I conquered the rocky, rooty, treacherous, hilly terrain that is the course for the Vision Trek 10K Trail Run at Lake Allatoona in Cartersville, GA.  When my friend and race director Mari described it as a "challenging" course, I should've known better because Mari is a true ironwoman.  Things that are challenging to the average athlete are a drop in the bucket to Mari.  I love her to death (er, possibly not the best term), but when she says something is challenging, you'd better watch out.  And maybe have the number to the local EMS on speed dial.

This morning was a practice run, and despite a forecast that called for a 70-80% chance of rain, the weather was sunny, breezy, and absolutely perfect.  Most of us were overdressed because after all, it IS February, but it was also in the mid-50s when we got started.  The trail starts from a beautiful park along the Etowah River and carves its way through the mountains (technically they are hills, but by my standards they are mountains) overlooking beautiful Lake Allatoona.  The views from the trail were breathtaking, particularly at this time of year when the trees are bare and you can see for miles.  Problem was, while running, we couldn't take our eyes off the trail for more than a second or we might've face planted, twisted an ankle, or actually fallen down the side of a mountain - hence my mantra.

At the trail head there is a nice little bridge, and some steps, and about 500 feet of nice, flat terrain before we began our vertical climb.  No lie.  I felt like I needed rocket boosters attached to my calves to make it up that hill, and an oxygen tank to keep me breathing.  After that, we climbed some more, and a little more, and then the trail turned into some rolling hills with very little flat terrain.  We stumbled upon (quite literally) many fallen trees across the path, and I shouted to my husband "IT HELPS TO IMAGINE THAT YOU ARE RUNNING LIKE A DEER!" as I leaped over them.  He thought I was crazy, but I'm into visualization, when it's necessary.  We finally reached the halfway point, which is right at 3 miles because it's an out-and-back course, and took a little break.  I was afraid to rest for too long, for fear that my body might not get up and move again.  So, I sipped some water, ate a couple of Gu Chomps and though to myself "we're already halfway there, we can totally make it back."

Then, at exactly 4 miles, my body was toast.  It wanted to shut down.  I found myself tripping more and discovered my reflexes just weren't as sharp, plus there was this burning in my glutes and my hamstrings that just wouldn't go away.  I told my husband, who was always about 1/4 mile ahead of me on the trail, mind you, because he is Superman, that I honestly didn't know how anybody who didn't strength train regularly could ever survive on this course.  I thought I was in pretty good shape, but these trails KICKED MY BUTT!  Literally.  It was very humbling.  My Garmin kept auto-pausing itself throughout the run, which it only does when you slow down to a near stop.  At one point I looked down and saw that my pace was 19:33.  Clearly I wasn't running, only barely walking, leaning forward and engaging my quads and willing myself to climb the hills.  I even visualized a rope pulling me up at one point, which helped for a minute or two, until my husband suggested I visualize an escalator instead, which made me laugh out loud and lose my concentration on the rope thing, nearly falling down the side of the mountain.  Doh.

For the entire rest of the course, I was saying my mantras aloud, alternating between them depending on the terrain: "Just keep moving!" or "Don't fall down the mountain!"  Then, at 5 miles, my brilliant husband yelled back to me, "You know what would be really good right now?  Five Guys!"  I haven't had Five Guys in over a year, and in that moment, all I could see, smell and taste was a glorious, delicious, dripping, meaty cheeseburger.  I swear that's what got me through the last mile.  I had 3 mantras in my rotation at that point, and thankfully nobody else was within earshot because they likely would've mistaken my cries of  "JUST KEEP MOVING!"  "DON'T FALL DOWN THE MOUNTAIN!" and "FIVE GUYS!" for a bad case of tourettes. 

We FINALLY reached the end of the trail, and just when I caught my breath, I remembered we had to run back to the pavilion where we started, probably only about a 1/4 mile away but it felt like running a 5K.  I have never wanted an ice bath so badly, to the point where I actually considered wading in the river, until I realized I didn't bring a change of clothes.  Drats.

So, we cooled down, rehydrated, and ate ourselves into oblivion at Five Guys, all while musing over how it was possible that somebody actually finished that race in under an hour when it took us 45 minutes just to get to the halfway point.  Our finishing time was 1:33.  It was truly a humbling experience and a reminder that a. though beautiful, trails are no joke; b. I need to focus on my quads, hamstrings and glutes more over the next 2 weeks, and c. I am not invincible.  And yes, that was the best darn cheeseburger I've sunk my teeth into in a very, very long time.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What scares you? Now, go do it!

"Do one thing a day that scares you."  I've seen this quote so many places.  It's a good one, because when we do something that scares us, we are venturing outside of our comfort zone.  More times than not we discover that the scary thing is actually the thing that will bring us the most positive results.  Case in point: the personal challenge I set for myself this week, to do a "double" on Friday morning, consisting of a 75 minute hot yoga class followed by a 60 minute hot pilates class.  May I mention that I haven't done pilates in probably 10 years?  And that after Isabelle's intense hot yoga class, I'm usually completely physically spent and ready to hang out in child's pose for the rest of the day?  Yeah.  So, I signed up, and I did it.  It helped that my friend Kate was there, always encouraging and inspiring, and just a fun person to be around.  Plus, she can totally rock a headstand.

So I donned my finest yoga garb, shlepped my awesome new mat to the studio, and set out upon my journey.  Turns out, the yoga class was the most challenging, sweaty, intense one I've done thus far.  I brought this measly little hand towel with me and it was toast by 20 minutes into class.  Beads of sweat kept running into my ears and eyes, and my mat was covered in pools of it.  The room felt like a rainforest today.  I worked harder than I've worked in a long time, and I executed a pose at the very end that I never dreamed I could do, and it felt so, so good.  SCORE.  I was so ready to go home and shower, and then I remembered that I was already signed in for Round 2: hot pilates.  Crap.  I took a bathroom break (no pun intended) and had a really hard time pulling my yoga pants back up around my waist because they were completely drenched in sweat - TMI? - as if I had been swimming in a pool.  Grossness.  Accomplishment.  Call it what you may, I was ready to call it a day but I forged ahead, back into the heated room.

Did I mention that I haven't done pilates in over 10 years?  Back when I did it, there was no such thing as a pilates ring.  This little doozie:

Turns out, that ring of fire (literally - it made my inner and outer thighs and abs feel as if they had been set ablaze) made all the difference in the workout.   A-ma-zing.  Might have to invest in one for my own personal use at home and at the gym.   Anyway, I had forgotten, until this morning, just how much I love pilates and more importantly, how much I RESPECT it.  Without using a single weight, only the weight of your own body, it sculpts your core, legs and glutes like no other workout I'm privy to.  I think I've fallen back in lust with it.  Lust, as in, I want it more.  Again.  Now.  Well, maybe not now, for I don't think my abs could take another gut wrenching second of it.  Because it was JUST THAT GOOD.

What I'm getting at here, folks, is the importance of venturing outside of your comfort zone.  My dear friend Mari is big on this, and I can see why.  It's when we push ourselves to do something outside of what we THINK are our limits, that we see the most results.  Case in point, when I got home from my double whammy today, as I was getting ready for a much needed shower I glanced in the mirror and saw more definition in my abs than I've seen all week.  A bit miraculous, really.  And I swear that my jeans felt just a tiny bit looser.  Could be the fact that I pushed myself through pain, hesitation and fear, and sweated buckets for 135 minutes today.  I ventured outside of my comfort zone and now, 8 hours later, I'm feeling quite comfortable.  Ecstatic, really.  So try it, you just might be surprised at how possible the seemingly impossible is.