Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Maybe it's just not that important to you

I came across this quote on Pinterest not long ago, and it struck me in such a way that I repinned it, of course, memorized it, and printed it out for the bulletin board next to my desk, which is also home to a few of my favorite race bibs and motivational quotes.  The words pop into my head anytime I am feeling unmotivated or strapped for time.  When I hear other people say things like "I don't have time to work out" or "I can't cook healthy because my kids are picky eaters", I now question, silently of course, whether or not working out or eating healthy is really important to them.  I do think that we make time for the things we want to make time for, and while sometimes it comes in the form of making sacrifices (i.e., waking up at 4am for a run before your day starts), sometimes it just comes down to scheduling.  I could talk myself out of running or working out for a gazillion reasons - good ones, to boot - but I don't, because living healthy and active is something that is of the utmost importance to me.  In fact, I'd place it right up there on my priority list after family and friends. 

Not having enough time is an excuse I hear all the time.  I was guilty of using it as an excuse too, for many, many years.  That very excuse caused me to gain 15 pounds, feel sluggish all the time and lose confidence in myself until I just couldn't take it anymore.  Then, I chose to make health and fitness a priority, therefore it became important to me, and there was no more room for excuses.  Easier said than done, right?

Check out Exhibit A, my calendar.  This is a handy dandy dry erase calendar I keep in our kitchen in an attempt to organize my little family's comings and goings.  Ignore the doctor's appointments and boring stuff, but check out the stuff in green and red.  You will see that Monday through Saturday, I have something in green (my color) that corresponds to exercise: on Mondays I do either an interval run (run hard for 3 minutes then walk for 2, repeat X number of times) or a hill workout (run hard up a 100 meter hill then jog back down, repeat X number of times); on Tuesdays and Thursdays I take a Zumba class; on Wednesdays I do a shorter training run (the numbers = miles); on Fridays I do yoga and on Saturdays I do my long run.  What you don't see on here is that I also do strength training 2 times per week, but the days vary so I haven't written them in.  I never miss them, though, because they are important!  If you look at our Saturdays this month, you'll see a few things in red (color code for things that the husband and I both do): we are running a 10K race, doing a 10K practice run and then running a 10K trail race at the beginning of March.  Phew!  I'm exhausted just looking at February!

Exhibit B - Here is another view that shows 2 equally important things below the calendar: my detailed half marathon training schedule for the race I'm running on March 18th, and the group exercise schedule at the Y.  It's nice to have these things in a central location where I can glance at them and check to make sure I'm on track with training, or check to see if there is another Zumba class at a more convenient time if something throws off my Tue and Thu night schedule.  It's all about simplifying and making it EASY to fit exercise into the family routine!

I'd like for you - yes, YOU - to think about the excuses you make to yourself for why you can't do the thing you'd like to do.  Is there a truly valid reason, or is it because that thing just really isn't important to you?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Anatomy of a long run

This is for all my friends who are NOT runners.  I'd like to share with you a tiny glimpse into what a long run feels like, so you can rest assured that it isn't akin to some medieval torture device.  Not most of the time, at least.  You may even be surprised to find that it's something us runners look FORWARD to.  Yes, I know...crazy in the head.  We all are.  Maybe that's why we tend to get along so well.

I came across this quote in Runner's World:

"I think I get addicted to the feelings associated with the end of a long run.  I love feeling empty, clean, worn out, starving, and sweat-purged.  I love the good ache of muscles that have done me proud." - Kristin Armstrong

That's the closest I've ever come to describing what a long run feels like.  I know, it probably makes no sense to you, but I'll try to break it down.

The first 20-30 minutes for me is always a warm up.  I gasp for breath and feel awkward and clumsy and freakish.  My arms flail and my legs trip over each other.  I sometimes have to will myself (sometimes even out loud) to keep going because it WILL get better.  Yes, it's not uncommon for us runners to talk to ourselves during our runs too.  Or sing out loud, or scream, or even cry.  I've been known, on occasion, to do all of the above.

Minutes 30-45 get better for me...I get my breathing down and no longer feel like I'm going to run out of air, my arms and legs fall into sync, and usually I have a random burst of energy.  Sometimes the burst isn't so much random, but a direct result of my chowing down on a Gu Chomp or two.  Gotta fuel the fire!

Somewhere around the one hour mark I almost always get into a groove.  This is the part that's so hard to describe.  It's like I forget that I'm running - my legs have a mind of their own and they just go - in perfect tandem - perfect stride - and my breathing is easy and my mind is completely clear and all I'm doing is listening to the music blaring in my ears and forgetting about the aches and pains and letting my body run on autopilot.  I am running on pure adrenaline.  I feel the sun on my face and the wind at my back.  I don't look at my watch, I don't second guess myself, I just fly.  This is the part that feels SO AMAZINGLY GOOD, and I try to make it last as long as possible.  I wish it could last forever.  Unfortunately, depending on where I'm running, it is often short lived due to a crosswalk or an intersection or something I actually have to pay attention to.  Which is why I prefer running on a path like the Roswell Riverwalk Trail where there are fewer obstacles in the way of total running enlightenment.

Typically, during the last mile of my run, when I can see or just know that the end is in sight, I book it.  A really good song also typically comes on right about this time, which always helps.  In fact, I wish there was a way to chart out my pace relative to which song is playing on my iPod, because I'm positive that certain songs (Soundgarden's "Outshined", for one,) press some imaginary gas pedal in my hypothalamus that makes me book it like a bat outta hell.

Then, when it's all over is when I feel all of the things that Kristin Armstrong described so eloquently in her quote.  I feel completely spent.  Worn out.  Empty.  Exhausted.  Starving.  Invigorated.  Inspired.  Elated and impressed with what my body just did.  I make sure to stretch and I use that time to run my hands over my hard worked muscles and remind myself of what my body is capable of.  I am reminded that I am strong and powerful and capable of whatever I put my mind to.

Honestly, I can't decide which I enjoy more: a big meal or a hot, steamy shower after a long run.  BUT WAIT!  I almost forgot about the other post-long run ritual I recently adopted - the ice bath.  Once I get up to 9 or 10 miles, or before that if I'm feeling especially tight and overworked, I'll fill the tub with cold water to my waistline, dump in a large bag of ice and slowly ease myself down into it for 10-15 minutes.  The visual is actually pretty amusing, because I'm typically wearing a swimsuit bottom, 2 or 3 layers on top including a heavy hooded sweatshirt and a hat, and I'm always sipping hot tea.  It warms my hands and my insides.  Speaking of medieval torture devices, yes, I too thought the ice bath sounded like one until I tried it.  Fact of the matter is, your legs and feet go numb after a few minutes anyway, so you don't feel much.

I hope that I've captured for you the essence of what we runners experience on a long run and what the much revered "runner's high" feels like.  Like Kristin says, "I think I get addicted to the feelings associated with the end of a long run."  Hello, my name is Callie, and I'm a running addict.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The family that runs together...

Running is my thing.  Among other things.  It's also my husband's thing.  We don't discuss it often...just sometimes...and we never do it together.  I can say "never" because the last time we ran together was too many years ago to remember, back when I was just dabbling in it and before I felt worthy of labeling myself a runner.  Until today.  Today, when our boy was at a friend's house and the weather was nothing short of perfect, we were both itching to hit the trails and he had a novel thought: "Why don't we run together?"  Now, I have to admit I hesitated a bit at this suggestion because 1. my husband is fast.  A heckuva lot faster than me.  And 2. I was jonesing hard for a good long run, alone, the kind where you forget you're running and zone out, then feel completely spent and used up at the end.  Alas, I decided it best to take advantage of our  rare kid-free time and spend some quality time together, even though I still like to think of running as something that's just MINE.  Is that weird?  Probably.

So we headed over to Sope Creek - a beautiful trail system barely 10 minutes away - and hit the dirt.  I know he slowed his pace to accommodate mine, while he could've smoked me, but he also pushed me when I grew tired and started to slow down.  We ran 5.76 miles in 1:04, which I think is actually not bad for 2 novice trail runners.  It's amazing how I can pound out 6 miles no problem on the pavement, but I struggled with the ascents and descents and rocks and roots and twists and turns.  Trail running is a whole different ballgame.  It's intense and it takes intense concentration and focus, and it keeps you on your toes - literally - plus it's unforgiving.  Which is precisely why I love it.

I was being especially careful during our run to avoid injury (I'm registered for the Vision Trek 10K Trail Run and Publix Georgia Half Marathon in March!) and my beloved but sometimes clumsy husband fell twice.  Nothing major - he actually looked impressively graceful each time he fell - and he got right back up and took off again.  I think he was mildly annoyed at my gasps and cries of "ARE YOU OKAY?!  Do you need to stop?  Should you wear pants instead of shorts next time??"  Sorry dude, just lookin' out for you and your skinny, pale, bare legs.

The most interesting and curious thing about our run today was that while my dear husband is not exactly Mr. Social (read: he can go an entire day speaking less than 5 sentences), I discovered that he turns into Chatty Cathy on the trails.  Seriously!  From the minute we started 'til the minute we stopped, he talked.  I struggled to carry on a conversation period, but he chatted away.  SO BIZARRE!  Perhaps he was truly in his element and felt inspired?  Comfortable?  Happy to be amongst nature and beauty and the fresh, crisp air?  Or perhaps he was happy to be alone with his wife?  I'd wager that it's the former but secretly hope that it's the latter.  Either way, I'll take Mr. Chatty Speedy Skinny Legs Trail Guy on any day. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fitness fashion (yes, it does exist)

Today, with a hint of Spring in the air and a new assortment of springtime colors at the Lucy boutique, I am feeling inspired to write about one of my favorite subjects: fashion.  It's a good thing that running, gym and yoga clothes are so cute and stylish these days, because that's what 95% of my current wardrobe is comprised of.  Before you dub me as a stereotypical stay-at-home mom who cavorts around town in a jogging suit, let me remind you that I wear these clothes not to look like the latest Juicy model, but because I actually run, work out at the gym and do yoga in them.  Like, every day.  For me they are functional!  When I'm not engaged in those activities, I am engaged in whatever activities my almost 3 year old is doing, which usually involves running (chasing), roughhousing and playing outside.  Again, I NEED clothes that are comfy and moisture wicking, and cute, to boot!

Let me show you an example.  After my run this morning in my favorite Brooks Infiniti Capris and The North Face top, I showered and changed into this ensemble, courtesy of Lucy:

Cute, n'est pas?  If only you could see the ruching on the sleeves better.
Here is another pic to show the detail in the pants.  Yes, you can find your basic black leggings there (though there is nothing basic about them - the Powermax fabric is amazing!), but I love Lucy (ha) because of the little details.

While I was there, I drooled over an ensemble that I will be purchasing the minute it goes on sale.  Or the minute I find a job.
Lotus Power Capri
X-Back Tank
Enchanted Cowlneck

I mean, you could wear this to yoga, to the gym, to the grocery store, to coffee with a friend, to a playdate, to anywhere your little sculpted tushy desires.  Love it.

I have a pretty strong opinion - and as always, take it with a grain of salt because it's only my opinion - that us moms owe it to ourselves to dress in things that make us feel pretty, sexy and confident.  Yes, it can be tough when we are changing clothes 8 times a day because our babies spit up on them, or in the midst of potty training when our toddlers...er, I'll leave that one to your imagination.  But really, I don't dress the way I do to impress anyone but myself.  I ENJOY feeling stylish and attractive.  Even if my hair's in a ponytail and Chap Stick is the only thing on my lips.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Edamame, etiquette and eccentricities in the Scrappy household

Today, for snacks, I ate 3/4 of a container of edamame and 1/4 of a container of grape tomatoes.  By myself.  I came across the most amazing recipe for edamame from a friend on Pinterest, and I'll share it with you because if you are a fan of those delicious little green powerhouses of protein, I promise you will like this tasty snack.  Try Crispy Edamame with fresh grated parmesan.  I'm jonesing for more, just thinking about it.  Nothing special about the grape tomatoes, except that they were at their peak of freshness, ripeness and deliciousness, and I devoured them dipped in a little low fat ranch.  The good thing about only keeping healthy snacks in the house is that there are so many tasty options, when you think outside the box (the box of crackers, the box of cookies, YOU know what your vice is.)

I want to vent for a minute, if you'll allow me, about something that just irks the crap out of me.  Two times in a row now, once on Sunday and once this evening, I nearly tripped over myself in Zumba class because somebody has decided that it is acceptable, for reasons beyond me, to bring their young son into class.  In the beginning he sits against the far wall (which is bad enough, because the studio is PACKED), and whenever a really good song comes on, he gets up and finds his way to the floor and dances.  Seriously.  So whoever is nearby has to move over and make room for him, and then his mom attempts to shuffle him off the floor and back against the wall, which causes another stir.  It is very disruptive and very rude, in my opinion.  Furthermore, it costs me precious seconds of prime booty shakin' time in that hour long class that I wish would last all day.  I LOVE that class.  But I digress.  The thing that bothers me the most is that right next to the studio is the Playcenter, where my child and everybody else's children hang out while we're in class.  PUT YOUR FREAKING CHILD IN THE PLAYCENTER, OR LEAVE HIM AT HOME!  Now, perhaps there are some extenuating circumstances and a valid reason for whyshe can't do one or the other, but seriously, lady, get with the program.  The rest of us are there to dance, and sweat, and get a killer workout that requires a great deal of concentration because the moves aren't easy.  We don't need another distraction from our cumbias and our merengues!  Jumping off my soapbox now.

The last thing I want to leave you with today, and yes, I do realize this post is all over the place, is this: when I run, I wear my Garmin which tracks my distance, pace, time and speed, among other things.  So I get home, plug the USB thingy in the computer and it magically syncs up with my watch and shows me beautiful graphs and maps and more detailed info than I could ever ask for, right there on the screen.  When my husband goes for a run, he wears his Timex watch circa 1999 (just a guess) and then calculates his pace and speed IN A FORMULA HE DEVELOPED, using a computer program called "R".  Seriously.  You haven't heard of R?  It's wildly popular in the Scrappy household.  I think it's hysterical that I offer him my fancy schmancy watch but he refuses it, because he secretly loves figuring it out himself.  Because he is a certified NERD.  And I love him for it.

My Holy Grail Body

I found it. Her. The woman I aspire to be.  Or, should I say, the arms, chest, abs, and legs I aspire those body parts to be.  I do a lot of research on fitness and enjoy finding inspirational pictures that help motivate me, but this one takes the sugar free, flourless, organic, fat free cake.  The fact of the matter is, I am not and will never be tall nor lithe.  I will never have the long, flowing limbs of a dancer.  What I do have going for me is the ability to build muscle fairly quickly and easily, when I actually try.  So out of all the photos I've scoured and bookmarked of models and athletes (mostly athletes), THIS woman is the one I think I could get the closest to, based on my body's composition.  Go ahead, laugh out loud.  Seriously.  Just do it and get it over with.  I did.  But I also sent the picture to my pseudo trainer (she's not officially my trainer but she inspires, motivates, pushes me and generally gets my butt in gear when I need her to) and told her I want to look like THIS person.  I'm just waiting for her "LOL" response too.  Seriously though...give it a few months (maybe a year?) and let's see how close I can come to matching Ms. Hot Pants here.  You know I'm always up for a challenge.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Thoughts on the 'mill

This morning, I did the unthinkable.  I stepped on the treadmill.  (GASP!)  Even more unthinkable, I actually hit the “quick start” button and put one foot in front of the other quickly.  (DOUBLE GASP!)  For those who don’t know me well, let me preface this by saying that I DESPISE the treadmill.  I don’t like using the word “hate” because it’s such a strong word, but in this case, it’s not strong enough.  I really can’t stand the thing.  Alas, it was pouring this morning – the only chance I had to run today while the child was in school – and being on day 6 of antibiotics for a sinus infection, I didn’t want to subject my poor sinus cavities to the miserable weather.  So there.  I did it. 

As I did it, I noticed a few things I hadn’t noticed about the dreadmill before.  The last time I set foot on one was February 2011, so yeah, it’s been awhile.  First, I tried a little tip I read in a magazine that said to set the incline between 1 and 3 to more closely mimic running outdoors, because even when you’re running on a flat road, it’s not 100% flat all the time.  I set mine to 1.5 and liked that much better than leaving it on zero incline, because sometimes that makes me feel like I’m running downhill.  And I’m about to fall on  my face.  Even though it’s supposed to be flat.  Go figure.

I also noticed that I could pay slightly better attention to my form than when running outside, because I don’t really have to look out for anything – changes in the terrain, puddles, cars, wayward children on bikes, small animals in my path.  I tried to focus on aligning my legs directly beneath my body rather than using a long stride, and keeping the top half of my body relatively still rather than bouncing up and down.  I was able to keep check on my midfoot strike and make sure I wasn’t pounding too hard on the treadmill.  I was also able to sneak peeks at a woman down the way from me who was running with, in my opinion, near perfect form.  She also had a near perfect body, and really shiny hair, but that’s beside the fact.

Because my training calendar had “INTERVALS” on it for today, I discovered how easy it was to do those on the treadmill: 3 minutes of running hard - I put it at level 6.8, or about an 8.39 min/mile pace, followed by 2 minutes of fast walking, times 6, followed by a 10 minute cool down.  My only problem was that at the end, I was so excited to get off the cursed machine and go upstairs to the indoor track to do my cool down, that I got dizzy when I hit “stop” and stepped off, and had to sit down on the *%&$ thing to regain my balance.  Yep – probably looked like an amateur.  Well, I AM a treadmill amateur and not afraid to admit it!  The streets, now that’s another story.

Perhaps the most insightful thing I learned on my ‘mill adventure today was this: the time we spend staring at the nice, bright flat screen TVs attached to the top of them MAY not be the best thing for our form.  Well, it may be okay for the average sized runner, but for pint sized ones like me, craning my neck to watch Kathie Lee and Hoda (KL actually let someone cut her bangs right there on the set today!) probably isn’t good.  In fact it’s downright painful after about 30 minutes, as I discovered.  Curses.  I didn’t even LISTEN to the TV, rather I had my music blaring from my iPod and turned the TV on for another distraction to keep my mind off the fact that I was running on a machine, not the ground.

All in all, I’m just happy that I survived, lived to tell about it, and didn’t get too irate over the experience.  It just felt good to SWEAT, albeit indoors.

New year, new blog and other cliches

Over the past - sheesh - 4 months since I last posted on this blog (guilty as charged), I've been thinking a lot about what I want this blog to be.  In the beginning it was to be a blog about running.  A chronicle of my training efforts for my first half marathon, which I ran in November.  Problem is, I didn't run every day, so I didn't have something running related to write about every day.  And, I found myself wanting to write about other things...life, in general.  See, I told you there would be other cliches.  Anyhow, for anyone who cares to read this, I hereby declare this blog a blog about whatever the hell I want it to be, on any given day.  It's MINE and I can do what I want with it.  (Dear lord, I really have been spending too much time with my almost 3-year old, haven't I??)  See?  There!  I wrote something about my child!  The fact is, I anticipate that a lot of what I write about WILL be running or fitness or health related, because those are my passions.  But be forewarned, I may also slip in an anecdote here or there about my family, or my friends, or my career (non-existent at the moment), or music, or the great deal I found, or my dream to become a writer.  Which, from this post, seems a bit far-fetched, dontcha think?.  So sit back and enjoy the ride with me.