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Posts from the ‘Getting Started’ Category
We all need a little inspiration, and as I think about gift giving this time of year, I considered that two of the best running things I ever received were from that running stronghold, Nike. Back before they were making great inroads with footwear, they were marketing heavily to women in the apparel line, and they had a shirt that I purchased which I proudly wore until it became far too small for me. Today, my mother wears it – and simply put, it says, in adorable purple script, that “Running is cheaper than therapy”. Yep. I enjoyed that.
It was followed by a little clock – the kind of paper clock with hand-turned dials that you see when the pharmacy has closed for lunch or the doctor is on a break. On the back, it had 12 lines of precious text about one topic: Gone Running. (Somewhere on this site, the copy still exists.)
It’s in that tribute that I provide the following bit of inspiration – mostly for myself. I hurt my knee in January and have been mostly walking and sulking since then, trying to get back into a groove without doing further damage. But last week I decided that even if I just walk – ONLY walk – or, maybe even walk with the occasional 30 second interval, I think I could be happy as a clam. Because it’s not the speed or the pace that has ever mattered – it’s what happens when I lace up my shoes and get out there. And that doesn’t change, regardless of the pace I run.
This, this is why I run.
Why do YOU run? Share in the comments, on FB, or even on Twitter – you can find me @plusrunner.
See you on the path.
Hiking and exploring the outdoors is a great way to get active and get inspired. For plus athletes, finding great apparel makes the journey easier and increase the likelihood that when Mother Nature acts up, you'll be able to weather the storm and keep going. Here, a few options for the journey, and a lesson in how to find the best gear yourself.
It’s frequently said that the hardest step we must take to improve our health is the first one. It’s the step up off the couch and out the door; away from the unhealthy food and towards the good stuff; and into a void that is frequently neither comfortable nor easy. And yet, with a courage and determination that is bottomless, we do it. But let us be clear: it is the first step (repeated, for most of us, every day) that is the hardest.
Exercise, they say, is habit forming. But for most of us, a lifetime of bad habits are teasers, tempting us back to the easy way out. I thought of this tonight as I got ready to head for a swim at the local rec center. I had set myself up well today to get moving – my stuff was set aside this morning before I left the house because last night, I was at work too late to hit the gym.
So today, at my front door, were my goggles, flip flops, watch, swim cap, bathing suit, towel, and a bag. When I left this morning, I left them there, rather than shoving them in my bag, only to have to change out of pantyhose and a dress at the gym. That dog won’t hunt, and I knew it. But I left work at a reasonable hour tonight, made a light dinner, did some more work at home, and at 8:00, headed to the pool. I swam 800 meters in about 25 minutes (which included a warm up and cool down) and I shimmied into my lycra and headed home.
And yet. The hardest step I took was walking away from work and getting out the door.
So what got me there tonight? Three things, and if you, too struggle to stay committed to your plan, I encourage you to consider them:
1. I told at least 4 people today that I was swimming tonight. I’m the kind of person who likes to be held accountable. So when I tell someone I’m going swimming, you can be DAMN sure tomorrow I’m going to want to brag about it. And right now, I’m happy to do so – because I have a race in September, and I’m making sure that I’m going to be ready. Plus, I’m loving the endorphins of being back in training, and sharing that feeling makes me feel good.
2. My scale is inching slowly upward. Yes, you read that correctly. I have never been a scale hopper. I dont’ do it. And yet, I notice that the number is inching up, and not in a good way. I have decided that the time for intervention is NOW and I’m not messing around. It’s got me motivated.
3. I have a race in September. On my birthday. It’s an Olympic distance triathlon, and I’m not messing around with this one. It’s in downtown London, and I am counting on the city being mostly gridlocked for 6 weeks leading into the race; so I’m getting a head start and a good, solid base before I have to get creative about training. It’s got me focused in a way that I NEVER am without a goal.
So if I’m not the only one challenged by putting one foot in front of the other, I’ll just reiterate a few tips:
1. Tell people what you’re going to do. Do it. Then tell someone you did it. The accountability (and, sometimes, the “atta girl”) will not only keep you honest, but it will help improve your pride in yourself (and give others a chance to be impressed, too!).
2. Find a metric that matters to you, and watch it. Maybe for you, it’s not Lbs. Maybe it’s your cholesterol, or the number of drinks you have every day, or the number of cigarettes. Find one that matters, and build it into whatever you’re trying to change. Need help? GET IT.
3. Sign up for a race. I know, I know, I’ve said this before. But honestly, if you don’t have a race on your calendar that challenges you, what exactly are you waiting for? I heartily advocate for signing up for at least one “A” race (your BIG event); “B” race (a build-up or fall-back race”) and a few testers every season. They keep you honest and the shiny medals are good for picking up hot men. Or something like that.
So that’s it from this side of the pond this evening. I know, it’s not too much in the wisdom category, but hey, at least there was a workout today, right?
See you on the path!
I know, I know. It’s a common refrain. But these past few weeks have been a combination of screeching along at 80 MPH and then careening to a dead halt.
So, in no particular order, some not-so-inspirational Plus Runner updates for the week.
I might be racing on an Olympic track.I know, it’s scary. But there’s this thing, and it’s through work, and I might just get to run a 100 meter dash on the Olympic track in London in early April. COOL, eh??? I maintain it might be the slowest finish ever, but can you imagine???
I might be slightly hobbled in that endeavor by a torn MCL. Yeah. I’m trying to pretend that the screaming pain every time I step wrong on my left leg is just a figment of my imagination. But it turns out that either a) not wearing heels for two years and then doing some downward stepathon in them might not have been the best plan or b) that sliparoo on the ice the day of our big snowfall here was worse than I thought. In any case, I’ve been running-free for three weeks, and I am officially. a. lunatic. Back to the pool, right? At least till a doc gets up in there and tells me what’s the what.
Big races are lining up. Have you picked yours for the year? More to come on this, but I did officially make the London ballot for the Olympic distance triathlon. Here’s to recovering from whatever _this_ is and kicking butt come September.
But in the meantime, how terrible am I at 100 days of anything? I biffed again this year on the 100 days, but MAD PROPS to Cindi Hammer and all the kids out there doing 100 days proud. I am nothing if not humbled by your continued inspiration for the rest of us.
Tick tock. That’s the sound you hear of me eagerly awaiting the Spring 2012 Triathlete Magazine Buyer’s Guide, which should include a piece about the best triathlon apparel for plus size athletes (written by yours truly). Word’s still out on when it will hit the stands, but keep your eyes and ears peeled.
I learned how to fence last week. Gingerly, yes, but it reaffirmed my belief that you’re never too old to learn a new sport. Or to be a hyper-competitive crazyhorse who believes in fair play and rules, rules, rules. It’s amazing they let me play team sports sometimes, I swear. But honestly, fencing? Very cool. And doesn’t require massive white bodysuits either, which was a refreshing realization.
We’re gearing up for spring travel around here. Kruger National Park (South Africa) and Talinn, Estonia (not to mention a possible side-o to Dusseldorf) are all in the makings. Got a recommendation? A road or a hike I can’t miss? This knee will NOT slow me down – send me your best stuff!!
And now, the good stuff. Who needs free gear??? I have a few pieces of gear that were sent as testing pieces for this recent article, and though a few are dedicated to some of my besties, there will be at least one upcoming contest for readers….so watch this space for more news – the contest will be announced next week to celebrate the Plus Runner’s 3rd birthday!!!
Okay, gotta go get some shut-eye now. Thanks for the readin, and see you on the path.
Oh, and one more coolest as all cool thing…my good friend Cindi was kind enough to nominate Plus Runner for a fitness magazine blog award. How cool is she? Very. But if you’re feeling the luvvvvv, please have a vote. And even if you’re not, well, thanks for stopping by…
What amazed me this Saturday wasn’t that the Channel exists; it’s that it took me 9 months to realize it’s a fifty minute train ride to get there. How did I not know this? How had I wasted so many weekends in my apartment, watching re-runs of True Blood or reading the latest novel, while this gorgeous countryside awaited me?
I wasn’t disappointed in the trip. My friend from work and I (Carolina, she of the blue top in the pics below) met up with a Meetup group who offered a guided hike (great when someone else does the navigating!). All we had to do was show up at Liverpool Street Station at 9 a.m. I, of course, was late. But I wasn’t so late that I didn’t make the train – and I met some really cool people along the way. Below, a few pics from the trip (because y’all occasionally ask)! Yes, you’ll note that I’m hiking in jeans (a first for me). I wouldn’t normally, but it was an okay way to go, even if the mud was up to my ankles by the time we got back on the train.
And also, a word about the views – this place was really spectacular (it’s called Leigh on Sea) and it’s going to be host to the mountain biking course for the Olympics for 2012. And the best part about it, yes, was the small sea town at the end of our journey. Ironically, we never got to the wide open beach-type view you expect; but for a little while at the end, we stood by the sea wall, and watched a great sunset, enjoying the freshest fish and some excellent company. I’d write more, but there’s nothing pithy or wise to say about it – I went, it was fun, and I’ll do something again. All in all, an excellent adventure for a fifty minute train ride just East of London.
I have a lot of college-educated readers out there. And lots who aren’t. For those who never had the experience, when you first arrive at the halls of higher learning, you get handed a giant catalogue (or, sometimes, a very short list) of courses that you have to complete before you can do anything “fun”. These are things like “Foundations of American History” and “Statistics 101″. Or, if you’re me, “Remedial Spanish”.
As I was back on the path again on Saturday, I got to thinking that I was running through my own personal course of “Running Foundations”. It’s a Freshman Year course. It’s usually one that you wander into, occasionally hungover, and with questionable attire, sometimes wondering if you really should have had that late night Burrito the night before. But alas, because you have made a commitment to better yourself and your life, you find yourself in a classroom (or on a path) at 8:00 a.m. on a day which usually involves sleeping in. And for what?
Well, the premise is prety simple. If you’ve never had a course in World History, and some day, you want to work for the United Nations, it might help to understand where all of the great countries in this world arose from.
Similarly, if you want to be the next Meredith Grey, you might want to attend Basic Hairdressing, while also figuring out how to tell the difference between an ACL and an MCL at Basic Physiology.
And if you want to some day run a half marathon, or a whole marathon, or even just get to a point where you can run regularly ( the equivalent of ALWAYS knowing where that MCL is), you have to slog through the early mornings, or the late nights, and the simple pain – and occasionally, outright fun – of learning something you’ve never learned before.
I was thinking all of this because I’d been through Running Foundations long, long ago. In the tail end of my law school career, I was interning at a large firm, overweight and out of shape, and I was in no condition to start running. But I somehow decided I should try. I got started with the basics, and embarked on a solid year of running short distances before I ever considered running anything long.
I feel very much like I’m back in Freshman year right now, re-learning how to do all of this again. I seem to have forgotten some of the habits that I got into after years of Advanced Running (like the fact that I’m always only warmed up after about 3 miles) but on the up side, I am also continuously surprised and happy to be running again.
It’s like that first moment when you’re learning a new language and you realize that you can say more than “Oui” and “Non” and can, in fact, order a cup of coffee with some milk in it to go! You want to do a little dance at the accomplishment, while recognizing that it’s probably still very small. Indeed, a very small thing.
On Saturday, it was the realization for me that I was going to have no problem getting in a 3 mile run/walk, when I was about 2/3 of the way through. It was going to be fine. I felt like a pro coming back to audit the introductory course, but I didn’t care. I knew how this early day of the Running Foundations class was going to end, and it was going to end well. I was going to feel super strong, and happy, and I wasn’t going to want to crash out (at least not until later that day!).
And that’s probably the best part about coming back to the basics. I do know how this path looks. I do know how to navigate through the ups and downs of a return to running. But in the meantime, I get the great days of hauling through the Common; of feeling like I’m actually FAST (???), and of knowing that I am absolutely in the right place, doing the right thing, to be healthy and strong.
I’m not quite sure what my “advanced” course looks like these days. Will I ever try to run another half marathon? Who knows. It seems awfully crazy to me right now, I’ll be honest. For me, I may just be one of those continuing “General Studies” majors who goes on to sample everything – and that would be okay. But for now, I’m going to put in my time on the Foundations. I’m going to commit to running a few times a week, and to cross-train on the off days – and like any good Freshman, I’m going to plan for some party time.
And as Foundations go, that’s good enough for me.
See you on the path!
Last night I had the marvelous opportunity to go listen to the BBC Orchestra play Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at Royal Albert Hall in London. A very kind colleague had heard me mention that I wanted to go, and when an opportunity arose, he extended the invite. I was thrilled to spend a great night sitting with he and his partner, listening to gorgeous music and that extravagant sound of a chorus belting out the tune we know as the Ode to Joy.
We walked to the show, and covered a variety of topics in our hour long trek from the office. As I told my mother last night, I knew I’d officially become a Londoner when my friend asked if I would mind walking (in my suit, from the office) and I not only said “no, I don’t mind” but I meant it! More than that, I was prepared with my running shoes (though I quickly changed back into my cute girl shoes once we got close). The other way I knew I’d done okay was that I really did enjoy the walk – and even though we arrived slightly “misted” – it was a perfect way to spend the night.
As I walked back to the Underground after the show, I was whistling the Ode the whole way. It was the second day in a row, you see, that I’d had a wonderful walk in the park – and I’d be lying if I didn’t say those endorphins weren’t making themselves known.
So it should come as no surprise that tonight, when I turned up for my first “training” consultation at the local gym, I was still in a decent (if slightly nervous) mood. An hour and change later, with our initial intake done, and the initial workout done, I’m still smiling.
So what is it exactly? What is it about the prospect of a committed program for the next twelve weeks that has me giddy as a kid?
Well, for me, it’s a few things. First, not to state the obvious, but I’d forgotten how amazing a workout is for your mental state. Just this week, the New York Times reminded us of this when they shared the results of a recent study that said that for those suffering from chronic depression, exercise is as effective as drug therapy. If that isn’t an indicator of what exercise can do for you, what is? Now, I wouldn’t claim that I’m in anywhere NEAR that kind of funk, but if it’s that good for those who are struggling, imagine what it does for those of us who are just okee doke? I mean, by all rights we should be singing Odes everywhere we go (don’t worry, no singing, just whistling here.)
Second, I think it’s the prospect of having a plan to follow – as my assistant likes to say, “a proper plan”. It’s knowing what I have to do when (with some flexibility) to get me to where I want to go. It’s taking the guesswork out of the equation by knowing that I have someone to report to – and also knowing that this investment is going to eat up a decent chunk of my cash. I’m putting my wallet where my ass is. And I’m okay with that. But, as my friends and business owners of Chicago Endurance Sports always knew, (that’s you Jenny and Mike) getting people to commit by signing up for a set time with a decent investment means people are less likely to blow off the training group. Trust me – I know that when I’m paying for these sessions that I won’t be willing to let them die. According to the Evening Standard tonight, I’ll be buying a trip to Ibiza every week to see my new friend Jason, and though he doesn’t sing and dance, I’m going to make the most of that time.
So I guess that’s it. I’m excited to have a plan. To invest in my health. To make some good changes. I know, I know – we’ve all seen or done this before. But I’ve never – literally – NEVER – done the training thing with a personal trainer. The closest I came was the great help and guidance (okay, and ass-kicking) my PT Joel gave me last year at Accelerated when I was rehabbing. I had great rehab results with Joel, who pushed me farther than I knew I could go. So maybe that’s it too – maybe I’m hoping with some encouragement and regular accountability, I’ll get back to a level of fitness I’m excited about.
I think that means, kids, that we start today. So get ready for mind-numbing updates full of good cheer about the newest adventure. I hope you’ll join me for this ride, and that you’ll be working along at home too. And when 2012 knocks on our door, let’s all kick it down with our new bad selves, eh?
See you on the path
p.s. In case you’re curious, the following goals have been set:
1) Lose 25 pounds. (I have a date in mind, but let’s not share that).
2) Be strong enough to be ready to run once the 25 pounds is off (ideally by February)
3) Olympic distance triathlon in early spring of 2012
There’s more, but that’s a start.
When was the last time you went out for a run and didn’t know the route home? The last time you got on a bike and didn’t plan how far you’d go? The last time you set off for an open water swim and didn’t know what the beginning, middle, and end would feel like?
Been awhile? Unfamiliar with the feeling of getting lost? Used to feeling like every workout is like an old episode of “Friends”, where you might not know the dialogue by heart, but you’re pretty sure Monica’s going to be anal retentive, Chandler’s going to make you spit milk out your nose, and Ross will make you glad you stopped dating that guy from the museum? Yeah, I know. If you’re a creature of habit, or you’ve been training for anything – and training close to home – the answer is probably “yes, it’s been awhile” – because we always advocate that you know exactly where you are, at all times on a run, on a bike, on a swim. In today’s safety-conscious world, and particularly as woman runners, we say “know your route” and “be prepared” and all that stuff.
But that means life can get pretty boring. It can stop feeling challenging. It can make you forget why you started getting active in the first place.
So every once in awhile, I like recommend something radical: Do something so different, so challenging, that it makes you throw your playbook – if not out the window – at least to the back seat.
I did this last week, and though it was one of the most challenging vacations I’ve had in awhile, it was by far the most rewarding, as I returned to an active holiday with absolutely no pain and no issues.
I sneakily convinced a friend to join me in Wales for three days. There, with the help of Anna from Drover Holidays, we had picked out a three-day-tour of the Brecon Beacons National Park – a gorgeous landscape of the Black Mountains and green hills that offered the Beacons Way – an 80+ mile path that runs through three distinct segments of the park. We started with the day 1 hike up The Skirrid just outside Abergavenny.
Where’s the adventure, you ask?
Hiking in Wales should have been pretty easy for me – I mean, I’ve been hiking now since I was 18, thanks to my dad and stepmom, who introduced us to the joys of Buffet to Prevent Bear Attacks while wandering through the western US national parks. But I’ve never – not once – hiked using a back-country permit, or hiked where I didn’t have a clearly marked trail laid out in front of me with cairns or markers every 20 feet. I’m a bit of a wuss that way (and hey, Colorado isn’t a place you go off trail if you’re only hauling a day pack.) But as I found out while researching this trip, hiking (or “walking” in the UK) is different here than it is in the states.
Unlike the states, here there is a principle which allows any person to cross anyone’s land in order to get to the next plot. The Right to Roam allows right of access across open lands, moors, national park areas (which may include private property within park borders) and several other areas. What that means, in practice, is that you can walk anywhere in England and Wales, as long as you’re carrying a good map and you’re on the recommended route.
But as we found out last week, the route is not quite what you might think. That route might just tell you that there’s a gate in the North East corner of that one farm on your map – but the footpath might or might not be visible to get you there. The next farm’s gate should be through those woods, and over a creek – but you’ll need to read your map closely and find your way carefully. In short, you not only have to be able to read the map – but you have to be able to translate what you’re seeing with your eyes (and feeling with your feet) into what’s on the paper in front of you.
So for me, this was the first bit of the adventure that was truly new. Though I’d orienteered a few times before (and thank GOD for Jenny’s map-reading class and for the orienteering day with the girls), this was truly putting my skills to the test. Second, it required a level of concentration I’m not used to bringing to a hike! We had set out on the first day for a 10.6 mile endurance fest – up two small mountains, with a large valley (and many sheep) in between – and a descent that would bring weaker thighs to their breaking point at the 10 mile mark. But for the mid-point of the trek, where we wandered through the valley – it was a great and refreshing challenge (ahem, with occasional cussing and much sheep shit) to find our way through the farms.
It was also refreshingly, delightfully, sweatily difficult going. It was vertical in ways I hadn’t done in two years. It was, however, also beautiful. In ways I hadn’t seen in two years.
So what’s the big deal about adventuring?
Well, the simple answer is this: it’s about doing something you thought you might never be able to do. And succeeding. I guess this week, so long away from running, and so recently back from surgery, I was worried about whether I’d be able to take it. Would I be able to do the mileage? Would I be able to handle the demands? We built in a day of cycling after the first day – 30 miles of slight climbs and one very long descent – but even the cycling had its moments of toughness on the heels of a massive day of hiking. And yet, I did it. My traveling buddy and I both lamented our dead legs – but they kept us going. And the third day, when we called an audible on our planned route but still did about 10-12 miles of gorgeous hiking along the Talybont Reservoir, country lanes, and one gorgeous canal – we were both pretty happy that we’d been able to get it all done.
And the hidden point in all of it is this: we hadn’t done any of these trips before. We let someone else do the planning – and she handed us the maps, the route, and the gear (for the ride at least). Anna was our tour master and by giving up the planning to someone else, we took a risk. But it was a comfortable risk, a calculated risk, and in the end, we had the trip we needed to test our limits but still have a fun time. We were happy to head home at the end of three days with more than 20 miles of hiking and 30 miles of cycling under our belts.
And part of the test, part of the challenge – was not knowing exactly what we’d find over that ridge. Would it be another false summit? Another thigh-crunching uphill on the bike? A descent that would test our faith in modern braking technology? It was, as my friend put it, like being on a rolleroaster you’ve never ridden – wondering what’s around the corner. It was the best, most unexpected fun we could have had as two adults roaming around the countryside.
So the lesson I think I’m sharing today is this: find a way to take off the training wheels if you can. Go find a completely new trail. Go do something you’ve never – ever – considered before. Oh sure, have a safety net. Take your phone and tell someone where you’re going. Take your water and all that jazz. But just once in the next thirty days, consider going somewhere that makes you nervous. Make your palms sweat and your conscience ask “are you sure?” Because if you do it smartly (and you KNOW how to do it smartly), you’ll find that you absolutely can find what I found: you’ve still got it. You have that sense that you had as a ten year old that there are adventures around every corner, and things that will stop your breath with their beauty. I found mine in wild ponies and heather moors, in centuries-old ruins and green paths on mile high ridges. But you can find yours closer to home, if you only look.
Find your local park. Find your closest National Park. Get on your boots. And get out there. It’s an adventure you simply won’t regret.