Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Easy Does It

I tend to include quotes in my writing, both here on this blog and periodically at work. Why? Because sometimes you read a quote so good that it's worth sharing! And sometimes others write the words or thoughts that you only wish you could so eloquently say. I try to keep the quotes I share brief, but this one was so good, and so relevant, that it had to be shared here:

"Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permits us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted; no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us." -- Maya Angelou

Like most people, I have a tendency to overdo it. Training is no different - I typically apply an "all or nothing" mentality which usually leads to me being disappointed when I fail and giving up before I even begin. Ugh. Surprisingly, I have not given up in 2015. I have had my share of setbacks and disappointments, mind you, but I've used them to motivate me to continue and resume my training. It's been a pretty stellar fitness year so far, but there is still one area that I can improve...

REST! Yes, I said rest! When I began training this summer, I read several blogs and articles regarding half marathon training. Every-single-one included only 3-4 running days per week; most included 3 running days and 1 walking day. And they all included at least one "rest" day. Why?

Running is a high impact sport. Without proper training, you can easily injure yourself. I should know - my running addiction in college led to two knee injuries and multiple muscle sprains. There are multiple benefits to including rest days to your training schedule, though, including:
  • Joint Recovery: All that pounding your joints take when you run isn't good in the long run. A rest day helps reduce inflammation, allowing your body to repair itself while preventing stress fractures and joint degeneration.
  • Muscle Recovery: Like your joints, your muscles tend to work overtime when you run, breaking down muscle fibers and swelling. Allowing your muscles a day or two of rest during the week gives them time to repair the muscle fibers torn while exercising. When your muscles repair themselves, they become stronger! Whether you're lifting weights or running, these are the types of gains you want to see. Stronger muscles mean better/more efficient running. Don't neglect this!
  • Overtraining: Yes, it's possible that too much running or strength training is not a good thing. Overtraining causes all sorts of stress on your body - it can cause sleeplessness, irritability, dehydration... not to mention it puts you at risk of injury (shin splints, stress fractures, etc). Your body is a machine, but it's one that requires proper maintenance. Give it a break, and it will last you a long time.
  • Exercise Efficiency: This sort of goes hand-in-hand with overtraining - if you're body doesn't get to recover, it simply won't perform at a high or higher level of performance the next day. It sounds silly, but you do make gains with recovery. Want to run faster or longer? Give your body a break. Your body will thank you!
So... does rest mean lazy? Nope! Rest days don't have to mean that you just lay on the couch eating ice cream while watching bad Lifetime movies (although you totally could). Resting simply means that you give the parts of the body you used the most the day before a break. I like to do my strength training on my running rest days, and keep my runs between my strength training. And on Sundays? I eliminate both, and stick to walking my dog. How you use your rest days is up to you - just make sure to give yourself that recovery time.

When you have a history of giving up easily, or making excuses when you should be making gains, it's easy to confuse rest with laziness. It's also difficult (for me, at least) to go back to a routine if I take a few days off from it. To help keep me on track, I've set reminders on my calendar at work and my calendar on my phone to remind me of what I plan to accomplish on any given day from an exercise perspective. What do you do to keep you on track? And how do you make sure to give your body a rest, without losing your gains? 

Tomorrow is my "rest day," aka my day back in the gym for strength training. Friday is long run day! Woot! (maybe...) Hope each of you continues to have a happy and healthy week. Onward and upward.



Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What a long, strange trip it's been... (Hello, 36)

"You're sick of hangin' around and you'd like to travel,
Get tired of travelin' and you want to settle down...
I guess they can't revoke your soul for tryin'
Get out of the door and light out and look all around..." 
--- Grateful Dead

Hello, friends! Sorry it's been so long since I've kept in touch. I've had an insanely busy October, but it's almost over! Woohoo? Nah... I love October. It's actually my favorite month of the year - and no, not because it contains my birthday. My birthday is actually my least favorite part of the entire month. For me, October means cooler weather, pumpkin everything, green chile stew, and... if I'm lucky... hot air balloons in Albuquerque (but that hasn't happened in years for me). 

This October has literally flown by, so much so that by October 12th I barely realized that we were almost mid-month. Where did the rest of the month go?! Early October travel plans had set back my half-marathon training a bit - I missed several scheduled runs, and my strength training was non-existent. I was brainstorming ideas of how to kickstart my training program again, when I had an idea... why not challenge myself to complete 36 miles of running before my 36th birthday? I had twelve days... I could do it! Right? 

To help keep me accountable for this challenge, I created a Facebook event for the occasion, and invited several runners I know to participate if they were so inclined. While only about 1/2 of the people I invited to participate actually joined, even fewer actively participated in the challenge. No matter... the few that did gave me just the motivation I needed to make sure I got my runs in. I finished a slow 1.5 miles on the first day, but I completed a much faster 2 miler (above) on Day 2. 

I've been experimenting with different running apps on my iPhone for a while, having been committed to the "MapMy..." and "Couch2..." apps until fairly recently. After my Dodger 5K in September, I noticed that several of my friends used the Nike+ Running app. In addition to being a more stylish, sleeker format, the Nike+ app also appears to be more accurate too. While this hit my ego a bit (goodbye, 11 min/miles!), it has proven to be a better training tool for me so I know what I need to work on.

Fridays are scheduled to be my rest day... but those tend to be my best performing days, so I might be making adjustments. Friday night of Week One was no exception, so I decided to set out and run a minimum of 3 miles. My goal was to complete this run as quick as possible. Much to my surprise, I beat my own personal record that evening! Even better? I finished the equivalent of a 5K at a time much faster than my Dodger 5K! Woohoo!

I had planned to hang out with my friend on Saturday, but Friday night's run left me wanting more. Being the good sport she is, my friend agreed to allow our Saturday hang out become a fit hang out... I asked her to wear her running shoes. She hates hanging out in her running shoes, but she obliged. Shortly after picking her up, we headed to the Lake Hollywood Reservoir for a nice, long walk... the walk around the reservoir tops at just over 3.5 miles, but we walked a total of 4 miles. And we didn't stop there! Between walking around downtown (to lunch at Bottega Louie and to FIDM), walking around MacArthur Park to see The Spheres, walking to our coffee break on Colorado Blvd in Pasadena, and walking through Descanso Gardens to check out The Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns, my friend and I accumulated over 9 miles of walking! Whew!

The following week was more of a struggle. I was sick on Monday (goodbye, miles), and struggled to leave work early enough to fit in my runs on Tuesday/Thursday before picking up my dog. Ugh! Tuesday was better than Thursday, however, and I managed to etch out enough time before it got dark to get in a 2.25 slow run. Yes, it was slow... but at least I was moving!

As I neared Friday, I worried that I was not going to hit my 36 mile target. I was so disappointed. Had I stuck to my training schedule, 36 miles would have been no problem! Stupid illness on Monday. It really ruined everything. I glanced at my training schedule on Thursday night and discovered that it called for a 6 mile run on my birthday. Not wanting to spend my birthday morning running, I decided to move the run up to Friday... hoping and praying that I could finish it...

And I did!!! My run ended up being just over 6.5 miles in total (Nike only captured 6.1 miles before my phone died). I didn't break any personal records with this run as far as speed goes... but my speed stayed within the pace parameters set by Run Disney for my half-marathon in January! And while I could sit here and beat myself up for not pushing myself to run faster/better, I have decided to concentrate on the positive. Did I walk sometimes? Sure... but I still managed to keep my target pace. Did it hurt? Heck yeah! But I wasn't sore the next day, or the day after that. Winning!

While I'm disappointed, I have to remind myself that I am the same girl who struggled to finish a 5k fun run (that I mostly walked) just two years ago... the same girl who couldn't run a full mile at the beginning of the year. I knew I was out of shape, but I was in serious denial about just how out of shape I was. I cannot believe how far I've come in the last 12 months. And while I have a long, long way to go, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on my accomplishments so far. Without further adieu, here are my top 12 fitness accomplishments from the last 12 months leading up to my 36th birthday:
  • Completed a 30 day strength training challenge during the 2015 holiday season
  • Started a fitness blog with one of my best friends!
  • Had a fit staycation with said best friend during her visit to CA in April
  • Hiked 6.5 miles to the Hollywood sign and back (way harder than I expected it to be)
  • Signed up for a half marathon (what was I thinking?)
  • Hiked 3 miles through Muir Woods... and then some! (thank goodness Emily didn't kill me)
  • Ran a 5K at home... in 90 degree heat! And didn't die!
  • Ran the Dodger 5K
  • Lost 40+ pounds
  • Dropped 4 dress sizes (what gives? shouldn't I be, like, way skinnier? LOL)
  • Ran over 36 miles in 12 days (39.8 miles, to be exact!)
  • Ran 6.5 miles... keeping my time on or under my target pace... woohoo!
The last twelve months have been a long, strange trip... I've experienced a ton of new adventures (hello, Europe!), had a successful year at work, made lots of new friends... and have finally decided to spend just as much time on me as I spend on everyone else in my life. Will I still occasionally work the 12-14 hour day? Probably. Might I swing by McDonalds for a quick bite on the way home? Um... yeah. But this year has taught me that those things are ok in moderation. I've also learned that fitness can't be a passing fad, or something I pick up "occasionally" whenever it's convenient. Food is great, but I need to demonstrate better discipline. I'm getting older, and trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle is only going to get harder before it gets easier. I'm so glad you are bearing with me on this journey. You have no idea how motivating your support has been to me!

A big shout out and thank you to the girls who helped track their miles for my 36 by 36 challenge, including Natasha, Anushika, Maggie, Jacqueline, Lisa, and Janie. And many thanks to those friends, family members, and coworkers who have continued to encourage and support my efforts. I'm lucky to have such great people in my life! 

And so starts my journey as a 36 year old. Oy! I better head off to bed... us old girls need all the beauty rest we can get!



Saturday, October 3, 2015

Week 2, Phase 2... (Or... things I should have already been doing)

"Abs are made in the kitchen; not in the gym."

"You can't out-exercise a bad diet."

"Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."

"Eat to live; don't live to eat."

When one starts working out more regularly than they may have done in the recent past, people come out of the woodwork with all sorts of well-meaning advice. Eat more protein. Stay away from carbs. Meal planning is key! I get it - I really do! You can't expect your health to wholly improve if you don't get your fitness and your diet in check. But... 

I hate cooking. Like, so much. I'm not a bad cook at all - some might even say my food is more than edible! Tasty even! But the thought of doing meal prep... please, just kill me. I will occasionally go through a phase where I cook more than I don't. It's not that I eat out all the time; I just prefer to buy pre made meals so I can move on with my day. And don't even get me started about post-cooking cleanup. Blech. But I will cook from time to time - it surprises even me!

I have a breakfast routine that I'm fairly comfortable with. I usually start with a mile walk with my neighbor and my pup, get ready for work, and usually eat either a cup of greek yogurt with chia seeds or a breakfast sandwich from Starbucks (Reduced Fat Turkey Bacon for the win!).  Lunch is where I always struggle. I used to bring my lunch to work, and eat with colleagues in our break room. That got old. When you work as much overtime as I typically do, you need to get away from your desk. So... I eat out almost every day. I try to make healthy choices, but my stomach usually beats my brain. Dinner is hit or miss - I either eat a bowl of cereal or soup, or I grab a burrito bowl from El Pollo Loco or a local burrito joint. It seems healthy in my head? Suffice it to say I don't eat as well as I could. 

I have talked to several friends in health/fitness careers, and most said that my breakfast routine was ok. I get protein, which is great! But I need to cut the sugar.... a lot. Yes, I may get a skinny vanilla latte, but those morning Sprites? Not ok. Eating lunch is a good thing, but do I have to have pizza? Probably not. And I have GOT to start cooking dinner. The occasionally nuked meal is ok... but I need to cook some of those fresh foods I buy sometimes. 

I have used both MyFitnessPal and WeightWatchers in the past, with varying results. WeightWatchers is good in theory, but I have a hard time believing that I can eat all the veggies I want and not have to worry about the outcome. (I love veggies... tell me that they don't count, and I can easily eat a couple of bell peppers in a sitting). I know veggies are good for you, but I'm a firm believer that weight control is a calories in/calories out game. MyFitnessPal has always been better to me. Quite honestly, I'm not sure why I stopped using it this summer. So starting Monday, I'm loading it back on my iPhone. Let's see how this works out.

My goal is, was, and will always be fitness and health over being thin and pretty. I was thin once... and I wasn't exactly healthy. I'm too old to think I'll ever be the next J-Lo or Katy Perry anyway, and I've had these curves of mine so long that I've kinda gotten used to them. So... fitness and health it is! And if my clothes start fitting a little better in the process? Awesome. 

How do you keep your diet in check? Do you do anything differently when you're training for a competition or marathon? I'd love to hear your fitness and health tips... so long as they don't include meal prep. I'm afraid I'll never be that girl, my friends. But I am more than willing to do healthy swaps and cook more often. Maybe I'll share a recipe or two on here? :)

Until next time... cheers!