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Posts from the ‘New Runner’ 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.
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!
There's lots of guidance out there for mothers and fathers of little girls, but very little for how to be an active, encouraging, parent of a little girl who's a budding athlete. Here, a few choice recommendations for those sleep-deprived, much loved, parents of little girl athletes everywhere.
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.
So I got on the scale yesterday and realized I’d lost about 15 pounds since moving to London in April.
If you’re like me, you might be asking how the hell that happened? Was there Dexatrim in my wheaties? Is Greek Yogurt really laced with some sort of fat-burning protein I’ve not heard of? Am I sleepwalking through nights (that would explain why I’m never rested?).
Perhaps. But the real revelation came when I was moving the “I brought these to London but I won’t wear them” clothes to the front room’s dresser (because they were borderline obscene sausage-fests when I tried them in April). Turns out, on a whim, I threw on a pair of REI hiking pants that I had been mortified to try on (note, not KEEP on) in April – and they not only zipped, but they fit. And looked decent.
What. The. Hell?
I’ll be honest kids – it’s been a bit bleak here. I’m averaging some pretty long hours at the office, I’ve worked out once in the last six weeks, and my bikes just arrived ten days ago (they stare at me, balefully, from the living room, giving me a stink eye every time I download a book from Amazon with the excuse that the Left-hand drivers are going to run me over like the American tourist I am.) I’ve been dogging it – only swimming once.
I also made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t run again until I had lost some weight. Actually, quite a bit of weight. Because as much as I know that my weight wasn’t the sole cause of the last year’s injury, I know it didn’t help. So, no running. Swam once. No cycling. What gives?
Well, here’s the thing about London – I have no car. It’s a big city. I walk everywhere. Sometimes, I walk quickly. Everything I do, suddenly, after about 8 years, is under my own steam. And turns out, “under my own steam” burns some calories.
This is a good thing, right? Well, yes. For starters, I’ve noticed that because I run (er…I mean, hurry) down the left-hand side of all the tube escalators, I’m getting quads of STEEL people. I land lightly, and my hips stay centered, and Joel my PT would be SOOOOO proud of how I’m transferring weight from one leg to the other! (This is also a skill you can test by standing on one leg and trying to put on a sock without holding onto anything. If you’re not successful, might I suggest descending some stairs – wide ones – regularly?)
Anyway, I think that this Tube tactic, combined with the fact that I’m just walking everywhere – is just really doing a little bit, each day, to help. And who am I to complain?
Don’t get me wrong. According to my standards, I still want to drop another 30 pounds before I run again (and yes, I’m serious as pie on Sunday). But I’m feeling better about getting moving.
Anyway, that’s the update from here. I’m sorry the posts have been sparse lately, but next week I’ll have internet service at my home again for the first time (with a computer that can keep up) since I moved here, and then we’ll be back in business. For those who are new readers, thanks for stopping by – and those who have been with me all along, thanks for sticking by.
See you on the path -
Happy Monday kids! I wanted to call today’s column Inspiration Monday because well, it’s a place we all know well. Monday – also known as the day on which our dreams sometimes begin (and sometimes end) for our weeks of healthy activity, good eating, and finding life balance.
It all sounds so impossible sometimes, doesn’t it? I say this as a woman who is currently sitting in a hotel room, working for the 10th hour in the day, about to go to a (I’m sure wonderful) working dinner with colleagues, which will terminate sometime before I begin sleeping in my soup.
But if I manage to stay awake, tomorrow morning, I’ll be cruising (early. very early) to get a glimpse of the Arch de Triumph or maybe just the Seine. It’s a good life I’m in right now, and I’m looking forward to exploring Paris a bit on foot.
As many of you know (and are probably tired of hearing), losing a little bit of mobility has driven me to the slight edge of insanity over the past twelve months. Arriving in London bike-less and unable to run, it’s been even harder for me to find that balance. And yet, I found myself so very, very grateful these last few months just to have that simple act of walking become a part of my daily life again. When I think of the joy of walking without pain – well, it makes me so much more aware of everything we stand to lose.
Do you ever wonder what it might be like to lose that mobility we all take for granted? Does it ever seem unimaginable? So it’s doubly hard, then to imagine what it must be like to have lost it – and found it again.
Today’s Health section in the NYTimes profiles one such athlete, John Carson, who was struck while training a few years back. Diagnosed with a severed spine, he took his inspiration from Lance Armstrong, Grete Waitz, and Alberto Salazar, and committed to racing in whatever way he could, whether that meant wheel-chair, hand-cycle, or – as it currently does – on two legs he can’t quite feel.
He is, quite simply, an amazing man, with an amazing story. And yet – keep reading. Because somewhere in that brief summary by Tara Parker Pope is an athlete like the rest of us – (or some of the more dedicated ones we have known) who is now transitioning to find a quieter, more manageable way to fit training into his life. He’s finding he has limits, and he’s going to work within them. He’s done with Ironmans this weekend (I know, right?). He’s going to spend more time with his wife, maybe start a family. He’s going to go back to “average” training, and an “average” life. But he’ll know what we all know – and sometimes just forget: that every day we have where we are healthy and able is a gift. And that we should use it to the best possible means we have.
So get out there. Go for a walk, or a swim, or just challenge your kid to a game of soccer. Get sweaty and red-faced, and maybe even pull a muscle or two. You’ll survive. Your body is built for it. Take advantage of it. And then say thank you.
See you on the path…..
I was sitting in the Running Doc’s office yesterday and saw he had the April 2011 issue of Runner’s World. There, on the cover, was a headline screaming “Can you be FIT and FAT?” I did a double-take, having a mini-Eureka moment. Had Runner’s World truly published a piece that would quiet some of public misconceptions about weight and running? Had they taken the leadership position one expects of the foremost running magazine in the world to provide some support for those who struggle with weight, but want to be runners? Had they done the public service to really research the issue and present the long-term research on weight, weight loss, and the impact of running on such a life?
Of course not. My expectations were way too high. But even with those crazy expectations, I was disappointed.
The article was a 1.5 page spread pitting two scientists – one a researcher, one the manager of a Harvard weight loss clinic – against one another. They were given 20 words on “can you be fit and fat” – and Harvard (and who can argue with Harvard?) landed solely in the camp of “no, you can’t be fit and fat because you’ll eventually get diabetes or arthritis and, BY THE WAY – not that I was asked, but if you just lost a few pounds, you’d be FASTER!”
To the question of whether a fat person can be faster than a slim person (because that’s what we all care about out there – speed) she answered, essentially “well, sure it’s not impossible – but you’d be FASTER if you just lost some weight.” Well duh. Of course we would.
What she didn’t answer is “what’s the percentage of runners who are overweight who successfully complete training programs for 5ks and 10ks – and feel wonderful afterwards – versus those who are “fit” who do not?
“What’s the percentage of runners finishing a half marathon who just “threw one off” becuase they’re “fit” – versus the percentage who make a lifestyle change and train to become more active – thus ingraining the behavior in their lives?”
“What’s the percentage of runners who start with the sport as a way to improve their fitness and even though they see only moderate weight loss, continue, both reducing their probability for Type II diabetes and other complications which arise from a sedentary life?”
As you might guess from my questions, I’m in the camp of “do more, and find a way to get the doing more to change your life.” There are, of course, immense benefits which accrue if you can figure out how to minimize your caloric intake and stick with it. But to the Researcher’s point in the piece, Americans have largely failed to figure out how to do that in the last 30 years. We have figured out, though, how to be more active.
Fix what you can. Focus on the exercise. That’s my platform in the Fit and Fat wars, and I’m sticking with it.
On a side note, I’d also say that I’m tired of seeing people use the word “fat”. If you look at the history of this blog, you’ll see that I’ve used that word twice in two years. I think it’s demeaning, and I hate it. Yes, I said it. I might use it self-deprecatingly when I’m feeling really low, but in my mind, there are enough people who are out there judging. We don’t need to judge ourselves any more than we already do. So this week, do me the favor of maybe reading that article above – and then thinking about all the ways in which your FIT life overcomes your F*T life. If I know most of you, it’s going to be a blowout.
See you on the path.