Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week One Down

I meant to write this post yesterday, when the run was fresh in my mind, but the weekend has gotten away from me a bit!  Normally, on Saturdays, I take a ceramics class from 12-3 - it's 40 minutes away, so I have to leave by 11:20 at the latest and normally don't get home until almost four, so it eats up quite a lot of time in my weekend.  But yesterday, I decided to play hooky.  I liked the idea of a whole Saturday stretching before me with no solid plans, when normally my weekends feel pretty rushed, trying to get all my household stuff accomplished on Sunday before jumping back into the work week.

But I didn't play hooky from running.  Instead, I suited up and headed out, expecting to enjoy the nice weather. But you know what they say about the best laid plans...

Having been away from running for a while, I forgot that each run is different. You can go from having a great run one day, to having a crappy run just a few days later - it's not always about forward momentum.  And that's where I was yesterday.  But it reminded me of another important lesson that running has taught me - even having a crappy run is better than no run at all.

I thought I'd be able to push myself like I did on Thursday, really punishing myself in the 60-second intervals.  But I was feeling exhausted and winded just jogging them.  By the end of my first 60 seconds, I was already feeling the burn in my lungs (of course, I forgot to do my inhaler before I left) and starting to get a stitch in my side.  So I re-set my plan for the morning and decided to conserve my energy during each interval so that I'd be able to finish all eight of them.  Since I'm a goal-oriented person (and very type-A), it's hard for me to not see progress each subsequent run, and to still be so disappointed at how long I was away from running and having to start over.  But yesterday's run was a good reminder to me that running isn't really about the finish line - it's about the journey.  Doing the couch to 5k program last year showed me how small building blocks could take me from 60 seconds of running at a time to 3.1 miles of running at a time.  Looking at the overall goal was always daunting, but each individual workout was manageable and got me to where I needed to be.  I am often so focused on the finish line that I forget to enjoy the journey (both in running and in life), so even in my first week back, it was good to be brought up short a little bit and get to think about just taking each run as it comes and eventually stacking them together to be the building blocks of competing again and finding my love of running again. 

So anyway, I appear to be waxing a bit philosophical about running tonight, and we'll see where that gets me for tomorrow's run.  I'm also going to my last fitness coaching appointment in the morning, so we'll see if I've made any progress in five days.  I must admit, I'm relieved to be done with the fitness coaching (I think) after tomorrow - it's very stressful! 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Punishing Run & Feeling Better

Okay, so I'll admit it - I was SORE after Tuesday's run.  I could feel it starting Tuesday night, and when I woke up yesterday, the part of my quads right above my knees were screaming, as was every single muscle in my calves.  But it felt good - it meant I'd done something to deserve that (even if it was only 8 minutes of running and 22 minutes of walking).  And even though it still hurt today, I went for another run - the couch potato plan calls for the same plan as Tuesday - 5 minute warm-up, then alternating 60-seconds of running with 90-seconds of walking.

Today, I really punished my body during those 60-second intervals (at least in the beginning of the run). I ran fast and hard until I could feel my lungs burning, a stitch in my side (which, of course, means I wasn't breathing properly), and I was close to throwing up.  But I did it, and made it the same distance as Tuesday, but 15 seconds faster (not a lot, but any improvement is good in my book).  So Tuesday, according to MapMyRun, I did 2.41 miles in 30 minutes, 17 seconds, which puts me at a 12:34 mile (average). That makes me laugh a little bit, since I was running 11:00+ minute miles last year in the summer, and that was with running the WHOLE time!  Today's run was also 2.41 miles in 29 minutes and 48 seconds, which is apparently still an average of 12:34. There's obviously room for improvement, but hopefully I can get there. 

On Tuesday was also my third fitness coaching appointment, where my fitness coach actually referred to me as "really fit" to someone else, which made me feel like she might be a little bit nuts, but I was happy with it. I admitted that I was only *just* starting my 5k training, but said I'd been doing better with eating - of course I rewarded myself with candy that night, but it's made me feel so tired and crappy that I think I might be leaving candy behind for a while - no, really.  We talked about how I'm having trouble drinking a lot of water, and she said that my body will get used to having more water - which is a good thing! So I've decided to try to introduce a little bit more water each day so I can get up to where I'm supposed to be.  Running helps that, because then I'm more thirsty, so hopefully it's just a little change that will make a big difference.

For my stats, I was down about two pounds to 152 (-ish, I don't remember the decimal point), so that made me happy. She didn't have the last body fat percentage written down, but it turns out that I do, so without working out and just eating a little bit better, I went from 24.1% on March 25th-ish to 23.1% on April 13th. Not bad. 

The other reason I like this fitness coach (besides the fact she called me "very fit") is that she's realistic and not pushy.  We talked about the sheet with the recommended percentage of body fat on it, and they have "ideal," "healthy," "improve" and "health risk" on there.  For a 30 year old woman - every time I go there by the way, she tries to insist I'm 29 because I was born in 1980, but my birthday is at the beginning of January, so I AM 30 already! - the ideal is 19.7, healthy is 22.7, improve is 25.4, and heath risk is 30.5.  Of course, I see those numbers and think, wow, I'm so terribly far from "ideal" and it will take me forever to get there, and I start to beat myself up for being at a higher percentage. And then, my fitness coach said to me on Tuesday - you want to be at "healthy" because "ideal" is really for 16 year olds who have the metabolism of a hummingbird.  Phew.  That made me feel much better, because I can certainly lower my body fat percentage by a couple of decimal points, but to lower it a few whole percentage points would take some real work and would put a lot of pressure on me. 

So I'm definitely feeling better than I was on Tuesday - I put a lot of pressure on myself to do everything, and then when I fail at one thing, I just don't want to play anymore. So I'm trying to be more realistic.  My plan is to really get back into running - I'm going to stick to the Couch to 5k again and do just that in terms of working out for the next few weeks.  I might try to get to a yoga class too.  And I'm going to make those small changes in terms of eating and drinking more water that I talked about with my fitness coach.  Then, in a couple of weeks, I'll review again and see what my next steps should be (rather than coming up with a whole ridiculous plan now and trying to stick to it, or doing too much at once).  So today, by the end of my run, I was actually starting to remember why I enjoyed running - the weather was beautiful, I do like the results and endorphins that a good workout produces, and I didn't have to feel guilty that I wasn't working out today.  Hopefully I remember that Saturday morning and get out there again and stick to this! 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sometimes I Hate to be Right - I AM at the Beginning

Okay, so for some reason, as soon as the doctor gave me the okay to workout, I stopped working out and stopped wanting to workout. I have no idea why. I feel like my motivation has been at an all-time low and I'm back to the same fears I had when I started running last year - I won't be able to do it, what if someone sees me and thinks I look stupid, etc.  Also, I just always struggle with getting started in anything remotely athletic.  So with the exception of that one day at the gym a few weeks' ago, I haven't worked out since (until today, I should add).

I did go to another fitness coaching appointment (as they call them), but I had a really bad head cold that week - I heard a long time ago that you could still work out with a bad head cold, but the last time I did, I got pneumonia. No joke.  So I work a bit harder at taking care of myself when I get sick these days!  But I went to the appointment, found out I'd actually put ON weight (though I was wearing knee high boots that day also which I wasn't the last time) and talked nutrition with Kris (who could fit a half hour conversation into five minutes. She said she was impressed I could keep up). I was terribly afraid that she'd slam me for my bad eating, but she said I basically eat well and just need to switch out any white flour products for whole grains, look for 100-calorie snacks for desserts (but not cut them out, yay!) and have dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.  Okay, manageable. I'm also supposed to drink more water, and I can keep drinking Pepsi, as long as I also add an extra glass of water to my day.

Like with working out, I've not had a lot of water since we talked that day.  I'm not sure what it is - I have it easily accessible in my house with a giant brita in the fridge. I'm just not thirsty that much! So I have to make a more conscious effort to start adding more water into my day.  And I've been eating too much candy again - it's my weakness. Along with chocolate chip cookies. 

But all of this thinking and conscious effort is overwhelming me a little and I think that's what I struggle with. Frozentriette gave me some great advice a few weeks' ago, telling me to change one little thing at a time.  She's totally right.  But for some reason, I feel like I just can't do it, like all of these people are expecting me to do more (what people, I don't know), and as if I'm supposed to be keeping up with all these other athletes whose blogs I read or twitterstreams I follow, and when I don't, guilt creeps in.  On top of the fact that I may have jumped the gun in joining the gym, thinking that would motivate me, while now, I just feel upset that I'm spending money and not going.  I keep telling myself to just pick one yoga class at the gym and go every week to start with. But last night, when it was time to go to yoga and I was in a crabby mood, I just bagged the whole thing.  I'm not sure why I do all this hiding out when experience has shown me that exercise makes me feel better, sleep better, and helps me get out any frustration/stress I have.  I'm really struggling and it's very hard for me to admit, but I'm hoping that if I just take workouts one day at a time, eventually, I'll build myself back up again and actually enjoy it, without always feeling guilty that I could be doing more.

So anyway, that was my goal for today. I've got a fitness coaching appointment at 3:30 (which I've already postponed twice, so I HAVE to go today) and I made myself re-start the Couch to 5k plan. I had hoped that I would be wrong about how far back I'd fallen in running - that I'd get out there and it would be so easy I could jump ahead.  Unfortunately, no.  Today's plan was a five minute warm up walk, and then alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes.  And it. Was. Hard.  Not impossible hard, just not as breezy as I expected it to be.  But the difference between this year and last year is that I already know I can do it, because I've done it before. So that helped. And I did really push myself in those 60-second intervals, so I was feeling tired by the time I was done with each of them.  And remembering my distances from last year, I know I went further today than when I started out last year, so I must have been running faster. 

So we'll see how it goes.  Last year, I was good at taking each workout as it came up and not stressing out about it too much (minus that first 20-minute stretch of running - holy cow was I worried about that one!).  I think a lot of that was because I was just doing one thing - running.  Today, I'm already feeling pressured to go to the gym for my appointment and then do an extra 30 minutes on the elliptical (because of course, I get wrapped up in the idea that the trainers are judging me, when they probably don't care) or just making an excuse when probably Kris won't even ask me whether I plan to workout.  The long and the short of it is that I'm overthinking EVERYTHING lately, which paralyzes me. So like Jannah said, I need to start small, add in one thing at a time and then build on that.  I'll give it a shot...

Monday, March 22, 2010

And so, it begins...learning to run again

Okay, so despite getting the nod from my doctor to start running again, I haven't, really.  Until Friday that is.  I can't explain what it is, but I'm kind of terrified to start up again after six months away.  Despite knowing that I was able to compete in a 10k last year and five 5ks, despite the fact that I learned to love running, despite that it made me feel good almost every time I did it, I just can't get motivated.

But I joined the gym.  And this past Friday was my first "fitness coaching" appointment.  The gym gives you these four free fitness coaching sessions, because they think that if they get you to talk to someone about your goals they can a) get you motivated to use the gym and not cancel your membership and b) maybe get you to sign up with one of the fitness coaches as your trainer.  Fair enough.

So we started with my goals - I want to be able to run again, and be able to run faster.  I want to be more toned and lose some weight.  I want to be able to do the Mud Run in July without keeling over. My fitness coach/trainer, Mike, was nice and seemed to know what he was doing.  He went through some strength training exercises that I could do to build lean muscle and we talked about what goals I should be hitting during the week, how often I should really be getting to the gym.  He weighed me, and although I'm not a fan of posting this anywhere publicly, my weight was 153lbs (I'm 5'9").  I should mention I was fully clothed with shoes on, and had eaten lunch around 2 that day (my appointment was at 3).  My weight that morning was 149.8lbs.  He also checked my body fat percentage, which was 24.7%.  That's within the acceptable range, but healthy is really about 22% and ideal is 19.7%.  So I've got to shoot for healthy at least.  Ugh.  It was all rather depressing, and of course, I immediately got into the mindset that these are insurmountable goals.

Then, after giving me the tour, he left me to my own devices, suggesting I do the 15-12-10 series of squats with a kettlebell that he showed me.  He said for me to build lean muscles, I need to do continuous reps (not resting between sets, but resting at the end of the group of three) and I should be tiring myself out from the number of reps I'm doing and not the weight.  He suggested doing 15 of each of a regular squat (holding the kettlebell with my arms down), then a row with the kettlebell and a squat, and then holding the kettlebell at about heart height, and as I come out of the squat, lifting it over my head.  Sounds okay, right?  Well, I did the three types of squats 15 times, rested for a minute or two, did the three types of squats 12 times, rested, and then 10 times.  So that works out to 111 squats with a 17-pound kettlebell, after not working out for 10 days and not being overly strong to begin with. 



So I tried to do some lunges after that, but my muscles just could not hold me up and I could feel my left thigh starting to spasm.  Instead of running right home like I wanted to, I decided to do some cardio.  Mike had suggested starting out on the elliptical for me, because there's less impact, so I can avoid shin splints (he also thinks I need to find somewhere softer to run than pavement, so I've got to figure out where the heck that would be that's convenient for me).  But I couldn't find the ellipticals - this gym is confusing! - and so I just headed to the treadmill.  (Of course, I saw the ellipticals across the way as soon as I got on the treadmill. Sigh.

I'm not even sure how much running I did - the longest interval was about 2 straight minutes, after which the machine was telling me my heart rate was at a solid 186 - but I did run/walk for 30 minutes with a short cool down.  I wasn't sure I'd be able to actually walk out the doors of the gym without collapsing, but I managed it and have spent the last couple of days hobbling around and taking Advil.

That's my M.O. - the old overdoing it, then suffering for a few days and maybe using that as an excuse to not continue to work hard.  I have been taking long walks with the dog the last couple of days, which helps, and then I did about four hours of yardwork yesterday which I can feel all over.  I so want to quit the gym and just hide out at home, but I do think it will be good for me in the long run.  I'm thinking of having Mike be my trainer for a little while - it will give me accountability for one.  Also, I'm one of those gym people who learns a circuit and just does it every time - not because I don't like to switch up my workouts, but because I'm always worried what people think about me (despite knowing that those people are likely just wondering what other people think of them!).  Mike pointed out that this isn't effective because your body gets used to whatever you're doing after two weeks. Plus, I learned that the weight machines aren't really all that effective either, because they take on some of the work of the exercise. So I've really got to push myself to actually achieve change, and if I have a trainer, I think I'll learn how to do that and get comfortable with the gym at the same time.  It still all makes me sick to my stomach though!

So anyway, I'm trying to motivate myself to go to tonight's yoga class.  I'm supposed to be hitting the gym three times a week, and any other workouts are just gravy (so I really do plan to revive the couch to 5k soon and be doing that as well).  I've also got an appointment on Friday afternoon with another fitness coach to talk about nutrition - of course, in my mind, I'm just waiting for the scolding that will come about all the sweets I eat.  Which means I bought six cupcakes on Friday and I'm eating them before I go.  We'll see how it goes - I reminded myself that as an adult, I can eat whatever I want, and I just have to remember that there are consequences to what I do eat. 

But I'm not giving up my Pepsi.

Monday, March 8, 2010

An Open Letter to Jillian Michaels

Dear Jillian Michaels,

I hate you.  No, not because you're a bad person or anything (I'm convinced you're not), but because you say things like "you're on your way to being shredded" and "those abs aren't coming for free."  Also, because you make me do things I'm convinced are impossible, like endless plank poses combined with cardio, strength or abs, cardio jumping/punching with weights, and "rockstar" kicks.  Ugh.  Plus, where did you find these "buddies" of yours?  The "perfect" factory?  It's a bit disheartening to get to level three and realize that Anita - you know, the girl doing the "easy" version of everything - actually has zero percent body fat.  Thanks.

But maybe the reason I hate you most is because you're right and your workouts do work.  Though I thought I'd be stuck following Anita the entire way through (which I considered even a stretch on day one, level one), I've found that by day 10 of each level, I can follow you and, once in a brief while, Natalie.  I truly believed I was going to trip and injure myself attempting to do those rockstar kicks, but by day 3 of level 3, I was managing them.  And today, while resting my sneaker on the desk, I noticed a muscle in my calf.  Without flexing.  That wasn't there before.

So maybe the scale hasn't budged more than 3-ish pounds since I started.  And maybe I'm still getting winded walking up the stairs (thanks bronchial asthma).  But I no longer find myself limp in child's pose drenched in sweat at the end of circuit three (drenched in sweat, yes, but not keeled over).  And I think I feel a *little* bit stronger.  And even my new fitness coach at the gym (who I haven't met, just on the phone) says that the Shred is a good thing to do.  So perhaps instead of hating you, I thank you.  But I'm reserving judgment until the end of the Shred.  Six more days...


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Visits to the Doctor Are Not Always a Breeze

Okay, so as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I made a doctor's appointment for this past Tuesday, so I could figure out about my wheezing and get back to running asap.  In the meantime, I've been keeping up with the 30-day Shred (I finished Day 2 of Level 3 on Tuesday morning) and have been incorporating a little bit of additional resistance training into my day.  I've been wheezing and had a tight feeling in my chest again since I got back from a trip overseas in mid-January, but I had waited to go to the doctor because he's two hours away and I'm in a ceramics class for three hours every Saturday. 

I wasn't worried about my appointment - I had a laundry list of things to talk to him about, but I figured the wheezing was just because of the bronchitis I had in October and he'd just prescribe me an inhaler and send me on my way.  I've also been having some periodic stomach pain (it feels like I'm starving, but when I eat, it hurts even more and lasts for about five days at a time) and wanted to talk to him about the toe I injured just before Christmas, which I still can't bend and hurts if I bump it into anything - and I'm klutzy, so that happens frequently.  I first chatted with him in his office about everything and he informed me that "big toes are different to little toes" so I shouldn't have assumed that they wouldn't have been able to do anything when I first injured it.  Then he walked me to the exam room, told me to change into the gown, and said that my wheezing "could be a couple of things" and he'd be right back. 

Of course, he wasn't right back, so like the good hypochondriac I am, I started to worry about what the wheezing could mean - I figured if it was just bronchial asthma, he would have just said so.  Once he came back and examined me, he sat down and said that likely each of my symptoms was caused by something separate.  Because I had gotten better from the bronchitis, and then after flying back from Europe felt worse again, the worst case scenario was that I had a pulmonary embolism (that's a blood clot in the lungs).  I watch enough television to know that a pulmonary embolism makes you a ticking time bomb and is a very serious thing.  He said that he wanted me to get a cat scan and when I asked him if there was anything that I should avoid doing before I had the cat scan, he said "Well, we're going to make sure you get it done today."  I knew he was concerned then, because my doctor is one of the most even-keeled people ever (which helps me avoid any hysteria).  He added that he wanted me to get an x-ray of my foot, but that we weren't going to worry about that right away and said that he thought my stomach pain was caused by an ulcer, and told me an over the counter medication I could take for that. 

I was still stuck on that embolism word though.

He told me they wanted to do an EKG there at the office, so I got to experience my first EKG - the nurse was very nice about it and explained everything she was doing.  She told me it would take her longer to hook me up than it would to run the test, and she was right.  In the meantime, I'd called my dad while trying to hold it together to tell him that I had to go to the hospital.  He said my mom would want to meet me there and I said I'd be in touch when I knew more.

The receptionist got me an appointment quickly and we both called to double check that my insurance wouldn't require any additional tests before approving the cat scan (they didn't).  I headed over to the hospital and my mom met me in the lobby - she's spent a LOT of time at the hospital in the past year because my grandmother has been quite sick, so she brought some crocheting to keep her hands busy and stayed very calm, which helped me.  I think it also helped that I really don't like to cry in public, so I held it together so nobody would see me cry!

I got signed in and got my ID bracelet, before a nurse took me in the back to put in an IV - I was getting a cat scan with contrast, so they needed to be able to give me the dye.  They also took blood first so that they could check my kidney function to make sure I could process the dye okay.  It was fine, so I waited a couple of minutes before they brought me in for the test.  I liked that I didn't have to wear a hospital gown or anything, and that the cat scan machine was open - I had an MRI a few years ago because of my migraines, and that was a TERRIBLE experience!  So this was much easier.  Until they injected the dye - they'd warned me that I would suddenly feel very hot, with the heat traveling from my head to my toes, like a hot flash (though my mom informed me that hot flashes are actually much worse - awesome).  But as the dye went in, my arm hurt terribly.  I thought that was normal, so I just held on and then I started to feel incredibly nauseous and as if I couldn't breathe.  I was trying to breathe through the nausea just to get to the end of the test, but I started to gag.  Fortunately, they'd gotten what they needed, and rushed in to make sure I was okay and not having an allergic reaction to the dye. I didn't get a rash or any itchiness, which was a good sign they said, but I felt weak and lightheaded for a few minutes.  They went to get my mom, and then put us in a little waiting room to wait for the results.  I had to keep in the IV just in case they had to admit me.  Fortunately, it only took a few minutes for the results to come back and the doctor to call and say they were negative.


So I did just have bronchial asthma, which seems to have suddenly gotten MUCH worse since I got all stressed out about the possibility of having a blood clot.  But I have an inhaler for that, so hopefully that will get better.  I did go for the x-ray of my foot yesterday, but I'm still waiting to hear back from the doctor to find out what the story is.  I have the all clear to keep working out - I just have to take a puff of the inhaler before I do - and once I know about my toe, I'll either be back to running or taking care of that! I'm hoping to sneak in the rest of the Shred before I would have to do anything about my injured toe :)

Only a few of my family members and friends know about what happened Tuesday, but I thought it was important to write a post about it for a couple of reasons - 1) I didn't know that chest tightness was a sign of a possible blood clot in the lungs and that really scared me, so don't assume that if you've had a lifetime of lung problems like I have that it's not something new - go to your doctor!! and 2) if I had had a pulmonary embolism, all the working out and the shoveling that I've done in the last six weeks could have killed me.  Really.  So I'm now a firm believer that it IS actually a good idea to consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program, and it's not just a disclaimer because of the lawyers.  If I'd gone to my doctor six weeks ago, I still would have had to be tested, but I was fortunate that it turned out I didn't have a blood clot.  So if you're thinking about starting a new workout and you're not feeling 100%, do me a favor and check with your doctor first.

I'm feeling so very grateful that everything turned out the way it did, and I commend Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ.  They were all so very kind to me - everyone asked if I had had the test before, and made sure to explain what was going to happen at each step.  Everyone was very calm and pleasant there, and although I was still nervous and scared, I felt like I was in the right place and well cared for.  And the whole experience really puts things into perspective.  It definitely inspired me to keep up with working out and getting healthy, so that I can hopefully avoid some of the preventable health problems!  I must admit that I've taken the last two days off the Shred because I've been both tired and just recovering from Tuesday's stress, but I will be back to it tomorrow and hopefully back to running again pretty soon!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The 30-Day Shred, Joining a Gym, Doctors & Finding Motivation

Well, I'm finally at Day 6 of Level 2 of the Shred. I feel like it's taken me FOREVER to get to this point, between taking off a couple of days (not in a row) for shin splints, and then having to take off an extra day yesterday because of a migraine.  I feel like I just about get some momentum going, when something gets in my way.  The good news, besides the fact that my last two days off I did make sure to do some free weights (8lbs), crunches and push ups (girly ones, I'm not very strong :)), is that in the past, if I'd taken a day or two off in the middle of a workout run like this, I would have just quit.  I have a big all-or-nothing personality, so anytime I'd start something, if I missed a day, I'd think "Oh well, I've already missed one day, why bother?"

But fortunately, learning to run last year and committing to that helped me to realize that you can miss a day or two here and there, and still come back.  I'm definitely struggling with level 2 of the Shred, to the point where I am drenched in sweat by the time I'm done, but I'm sticking with it.  Despite the fact that I'm terrified of level 3 - my sister said it was the first time she had trouble following the harder girl, while I've been having trouble following the easier girl all along!  But I can just give it my best shot and see how it goes.  I'm starting to see results - I feel stronger and a bit less like I want to keel over by the end of the workout, and I'm down about 1.4 pounds from last week (adding in a bit of dieting helped that too).  The biggest motivator for me (I'm totally embarrassed to admit) has been watching old episodes of La Femme Nikita.  Peta Wilson is in such great shape for the show (which finished up when she was 30, like me) and watching her kick butt makes me want to be stronger and tougher. 

I realize I'm not going to get there on just 20 minutes a day of Shred, so I'm also thinking about joining a gym.  I happened to get a postcard in the mail the other day for the Ocean Club, which is about 15 minutes away from me.  They have a pool and water aerobics classes, which I've always looked for in a gym, and some great group classes offered too.  If I'm going to get in good shape for the Mud Run in July, I'd better get moving.  Plus, my biggest motivator for joining this particular gym is that they have very reasonably priced massages and I'm a sucker for a good massage.  So I'm hoping to get over there on Friday to take a look around and maybe sign up.  They have monthly membership options, which I like, and it would give me a place to keep running in the summer, after I basically fizzled last year because of the humidity.  We'll see what happens.

And in good news for my running career, I've officially made a doctor's appointment for a week today, when I'll be up visiting my parents.  Hopefully I don't have to wait two hours to see him like the last time, but I should be able to figure out my wheezing/coughing/chest tightness, toe injury, stomach pain, and maybe sort something out about the migraines that have been cropping up with more regularity and severity again lately.  We'll see what he says, and hopefully I'll be back running in a couple of weeks' time! 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Let's Talk Shin Splints

I may not be running, but I'm definitely suffering from a common running injury - shin splints.  Ugh.

Wikipedia says that shin splints are "a general term used to refer to a painful condition in the shins. It is often caused by running or jumping or sprinting, and may be very slow to heal."  Since I'm not running, I can only assume that the shin splints are caused by all the lovely jumping that Jillian has us do during the Shred.  I had been getting a bit of a twinge in my shins last week, and then when I started level 2 yesterday, the suffering really began.  By my second day of level 2 today, there was no doubt. I had the splints.

So I asked my trusty Twitter network of friends (which includes a lot of runners) what to do, and faster than I could google the symptoms, I got three replies.  All three mentioned ice, which I've never tried for shin splints before and one of them said RICE - rest, ice, compress, elevate.

So I got out my compression socks (LOVE these by the way), put my feet up on another chair by my desk, and got a couple of ice packs for my shins.  Let's hope they're a quick heal!  We'll see how things go, but I may take tomorrow off from the shred to give my legs a break.

I should mention that shin splints are no joke, by the way.  "Untreated shin splints can lead to a stress reaction mid-shaft in the tibia, which can eventually lead to a stress fracture. A stress fracture can be diagnosed by a bone scan or an MRI and takes much longer to heal than shin splints."  I know someone this happened to in college, our first week of orientation, and he walked with crutches for years, and has a limp now.  So it's definitely not something I want to fool around with!

Does anyone else have shin splint cures that have worked for them?  Shin splint horror stories? Well, those I may not really want to hear...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snowmageddon & Jillian Michaels

The blizzard that hit over the weekend here at the Jersey shore, among other places, is not technically running related (though I do know of a couple of people through Twitter who actually competed in races on Sunday after the blizzard, before everything was truly cleared!).  However, it definitely is related to working out, since shoveling is a great way to kick your own butt - if it snowed like that every day here and I didn't break down and buy a snow blower, I'd be in fabulous shape!

Normally, I like to keep up with the snowfall so that it doesn't get overwhelming, but it just wasn't possible in this storm, unless I wanted to stay up all night.  So I was greeted with 12 inches of snow when I woke up - certainly less than what those to the south were dealing with, but it was plenty for me.  I was praying that my neighbors would take pity on me and offer to use their snow blower to clear me out, or that my driveway-sharing neighbor would come out and help me shovel, but unfortunately, none of that happened.

I started with a small path on the porch for the pup and realized I was way overdressed in my warmest coat.  I switched to a slightly lighter coat, and was still sweating like mad even though it was only 29 degrees outside and I just had a base layer on underneath.  I managed to get the sidewalk in front of my house cleared (though I nixed even attempting to clear the sidewalk by the street) and then started on the driveway in front of my car.  I'd parked further back than usual, because it made it easier for me in the last snowfall to shovel that way.  Even though I have just a little car, it had blocked some of the snow and created a weird wind tunnel, so instead of a solid 12 inches of snow, I had some almost clear parts and other big drifts.  I finished up with clearing off my car and thought I would collapse, so I took a break.

Like any other workout, I needed to make sure I was well hydrated. I started with a glass of juice, because I figured I could use the sugar as well, and followed that with a big glass of water.  After a break of about thirty to forty five minutes, I was back at it again (it was still snowing, with another 6-12 inches predicted, so I wanted to stay on top of the first snowfall so I could keep up with it).  This time, I cleared the other end of my driveway - at least part of it.  The snow plows had been through twice, and because I live on a cul de sac, they didn't get close enough to the curb.  So I had about seven extra feet of road at the end of my driveway to shovel as well (not to mention it was piled a bit higher at the end thanks to the plow).  It was really defeating to feel like I'd gotten a lot done, only to turn around and realize how much was left!  I also moved my car up a bit so I could shovel the huge drift of snow between my car and my neighbor's cars. 

Then, it was time for another break and some more water and juice.  I didn't sit down for too long this time because I was so exhausted that I could feel my muscles starting to stiffen up and I thought if I rested for too long, I'd never get out there again.  I bundled up again and headed out, this time to finish up.  I tried to get into the rhythm of shoveling the top layer of soft fluffy snow, moving that to the top of an every growing pile (my arms were SO tired), and then shoveling the bottom layer, which was heavier and slushy.  When I'd get really tired, I'd move to another part that I hadn't finished shoveling yet, chip away a little bit of the snow, and just push it along the part I'd already cleared to another pile of snow.  Sometimes though, I just rested my head on the handle of my shovel - it was not fun. 

Finally, four hours after I'd started, it was clear!  Of course, the wind was so fierce that it would blow, and snow would immediately be back on the area you'd just cleared (I saw a neighbor clear his whole driveway, only to end up caught in a huge blast of wind and snow that left more snow for him to clear again).  It was a bit frustrating to say the least.  I headed back inside, figuring I'd go out again at four and then seven, when they said the storm would stop, which would be it for the day.  In the meantime, I made myself take a nice hot shower and sit with my chair massager for a little while to loosen up my muscles.

When I went out again at four, I'd just cleared my sidewalk when my neighbor came outside to say that they were waiting until the storm had stopped to plow, and they'd be happy to help me out.  Very nice of them, but I wanted to say, where were you this morning?!?!  But it did mean no more shoveling for me, so I just cleared off my car and headed back inside for the night.  My driveway-sharing neighbor also must have shoveled my driveway after the snow stopped because it was clear when I got up Sunday morning.  It's great to have good neighbors! 

With all that shoveling, I decided to put off Day 6 of Level 1 of the Shred until today.  I'm still waiting to notice any real results, though I'm feeling less exhausted in the middle of the workouts and able to push myself a little more.  I could tell I'd lost some momentum today because of the two days off - even though I was working out on Saturday with the shoveling, it was a mostly different set of muscles. So I won't skip two days in a row again.  My sister took a day off in between each of the 10 day sets, so I'll aim for that. 

Four more days at Level 1 and then I'm on to Level 2!  I'm a little bit scared, but I remember being so scared that I couldn't run 20 minutes straight, and I did that, so I'll try to remember that!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wanna Get Down and Dirty for a Good Cause?

Yesterday, one of my favorite charities, Operation Gratitude, announced that they've partnered on the National Mud Run Series to support the troops.  You know how I love to combine running with supporting our troops, so I'm very excited about this series!  The Down and Dirty Mud Run Series features 5k and 10k off-road courses filled with military-style obstacles, commanding cargo climbs, wild water crossings, mud, mud and more mud, and a post-race barbecue, along with an awesome tech tee.  You can race alongside local military personnel, public safety officers and police academy trainees, all while supporting our troops through Operation Gratitude - what could be better?

They've got four dates and locations, including:

Los Angeles, California: April 25, 2010 at Castaic Lake State Recreation Area
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: July 18, 2010 at Fairmount Park, Belmont Plateau
New York, New York: October 3, 2010 at Pelham Bay Park
Sacramento, California: October 31, 2010 at Folsom Lake State Recreation Area

The entry fee for the 10K is $70 and the 5k is $40 (with late registrations costing more).  There's a military discount for active military personnel or public safety officers, which you can learn more about on their site.  $2 of every registration goes right to Operation Gratitude (whose mission is to send care packages to deployed military personnel around the world) to pay for 100,000 care packages. 

Also, Paul Mitchell is a race sponsor, and they'll be onsite in their own booth to cut and style your hair, with all proceeds donated to the Challenged Athlete Foundation.  So you can get all dirty, then get your hair cut for a good cause!

There's no time limit to finish the course, so if you don't want to run it, you can walk and take your time - just come out to support our troops!  You do have to leave your dogs at home though (and I would guess that goes for strollers as well.  And iPods, unless you want to be cleaning mud out of it later). 

The New York race might fall during my European conference, so I'm going to plan to do the Philadelphia one in July (yes, yes, despite the heat).  I'd love to have some company!  (And advice from any of you who've done a mud run before, particularly because this one seems a bit of a challenge - just what I need I think!)

To learn more, check out the links I've posted above, or you can also become a fan on Facebook.  You can also follow Operation Gratitude on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or check out their YouTube videos (though you might need some tissues for that one).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I'm Still Here!!

After my last post back in early November (gasp!), I fully expected to rest through the holidays and then be back to running by early January at the latest.  It was good to get some rest - I felt the antibiotics kick in almost immediately, and really thought that it was a simple case of bronchitis and not the bronchial asthma that my doctor also suspected.  But although I was feeling much less tired than I was for all of October (it was about all I could manage to make myself take a shower each day besides sitting at my desk for work), I was still wheezing and using my inhaler pretty much through to Christmas (when it ran out and not so much because I was sure I didn't need it anymore).  I should mention that I'm not afraid to go to the doctor, but I still have the same GP as when I was living in North Jersey, so it's a little hard to make an appointment with a doctor who's two hours away and doesn't have any Saturday hours.  Particularly when I'm now taking a three-hour Saturday ceramics class, and couldn't even take off a Friday to head up there for a couple of days.

But in my head, I was planning to head up to my parents' for two weeks over Christmas and New Years, and then return to running when I got back home.  Then, three days before Christmas, I tripped walking into the kitchen (I'm SO graceful) and either broke or sprained my left big toe, or possibly tore something in there (as six weeks later, I still have pain and can't bend it at all!).  I'm at the point now where I could run on it if I wanted to because it's no longer affecting how I walk, but it did delay my return to running for another couple of weeks.  My original plan was to come home after New Year's, which I did do, but then I headed straight back up to my parents' that Thursday for my 30th birthday.  I had a great birthday dinner with my whole family, and then my sisters surprised me with a big party the following night, which was great.  I stayed through the weekend for a friend's 30th birthday party and then headed over to Europe on a business trip.  And that's when my wheezing troubles started up again - when I got home about a week later, I was feeling totally exhausted AGAIN and wheezing again (I love packed airplanes).  I had seasonal allergic asthma as a kid, and between that and my bouts with bronchitis and pneumonia over the years, I do sometimes have trouble with very cold air.  So I've put off my return to running until I can both get back to the doctor and it warms up a little, since I don't have access to a treadmill.

However, I'm working on not being a couch potato!  My sister started Jillian Michaels' 30-day Shred a few weeks' ago and enjoyed it so much that I jumped on the bandwagon (it should be said that my sister actually loves working out, which I do not, so I should have maybe taken that into account).  I started the Shred on Monday at Level 1 and have done it three days in a row now.  Actually, this is the second time I started it - during the three days I was home in early January, I did the first workout and couldn't move by the end of the day.  I almost fell down the stairs.  Twice.  It took me four days to get over feeling sore.  I think some of it was because I was using weights that were too heavy for me (they're old weights, and I was stronger back in college when I bought them) and I did it at the end of the day, when I was tired.  So I learned from that, bought some lighter weights and started doing the 20-minute workout during lunch (after a yogurt snack around 10:30/11:00, and followed by a yogurt, skim milk, fruit smoothie).  The first day was okay and I managed to get through the entire workout without needing to lie down (something else I'd experienced the first time).  Yesterday was tougher - my body was sore and I wasn't giving it recovery time, so I was spent by the end of the workout.  But another of my sister's friends who's doing the Shred assured me that I'd feel much better by day three - and lo and behold, I did.  I was able to up my game a bit and push myself during the workout, when the last two days, it was all I could manage to keep up with the "beginner" girl in the video. 

So I'm feeling pretty good after day 3, and my plan is to do what my sister did - ten days at each level (there's three).  My sister says she's noticed more definition in her arms and legs, so I'm hoping to see the same and push my endurance back up, so I can get back to running again soon.  I'm also getting in a 20-minute walk with the pup almost every day.  And I've already been checking out 2010 races - I'd like to do the same two races in May that I did in 2009 and my sister and I are planning to do the Tunnel to Towers 9/11 Memorial Race in September, as long as I'm not away on business.  And while I haven't been running, I've been thinking a lot about running, and how I really fell off with meeting my goals after I did my first two 5k's.  Some of that was because I pushed myself too hard to get right back to training after the runs, with very little recovery time, and some of it was because the summer was so hot - and I hate heat and humidity.  So this year, I also want to work on guarding against losing my motivation.  I'm thinking about joining a gym for the summer months and doing some treadmill running (though I understand it's much easier than outdoor running) and maybe doing some more runs with friends/family (though they mostly live far away - I could make weekend plans though, which would keep me running during the week!).  My overriding goal for 2010 in terms of running is to reinvigorate my love of running and get back to running three miles, three days a week.

What are your 2010 running goals?