Training Tuesdays: reflections on a year without any real running

I sometimes cannot believe that it’s been a year and a half since my injury. At first, I tried to get right back into the rhythm of regular running, determined not to lose an ounce of fitness.  I realized, though not as quickly as I should have, that jumping back into running was doing my injury no good. I pulled back on my running a little bit, then a little bit more, then even more than that.

Now, a year and a half later, I’m reflecting on a year of negligible running. I went from consistently running 10-15 km, 3-4 times per week to training for an ultra marathon to going weeks on end with no running at all.  My longest run since last October? 7 kilometres.  Even that distance is a…distant (pun intended) memory. I used to so firmly believe all these (mostly irrational or untrue) things about running that my running and exercise routines were bordering on obsessive. On the other side of my injury, I can see how my overly rigid views about running weren’t always healthy. For instance:

1. Running is the only way to stay fit: Sure, my cardiovascular fitness and endurance are a far cry from what they used to be, but it doesn’t mean I’m not still fit. I was just incredibly super fit back then. What I am now is hella strong. Just the other day I did tricep dips for the first time in about a year (my trainer and I never do tricep dips, but trust me when I say she gets my arms working), and they were so easy. I remember that I used to struggle to do five. So yeah, maybe I can’t run a 10k anymore, but I can rock multiple sets of tricep pushups, deadlift 110 lbs, run with 90 lbs on the prowler, and do negative pull ups  That’s something.

2. I’ll get fat if I can’t run: I’ll be brutally honest and admit that my running obsession started out mostly as an attempt to counterbalance my serious sweet tooth.  I always thought if I didn’t run, I’d have to cut out any and all sugar. Well, I eat way less restrictively than I used to, never run and, though I don’t know the exact number, I don’t believe I’ve gained anymore than 10 lbs. And you know what? I’m happier not obsessing over running an extra 5 km several times per week just to keep that 10 lbs off.

3. I have to run for a long time to see running’s benefits: I used to plan my days around my workouts and runs, sometimes fearing I was bordering on obsessive. If I didn’t run for at least an hour, I didn’t feel like I’d had a good enough workout. Well, the tides have changed. Now, 45 minutes of non-running is a good workout day for me. I workout less, have more flexibility in my daily schedule, and I don’t feel any worse for it.

I’ve said before that I sometimes struggle with the fact that I may never run distance again, but honestly I think those moments of struggle just reflect remnants of my old ways of thinking about fitness. The reality is that my SI is way more stable since I’ve stopped running. I’d probably be happy getting back to one or two short runs a week, and that’s more because I like to exercise outside than anything else. If I never run an ultra, never run half marathons or, hell, even if I never run a 10k again, I think I’m going to be just fine.


Monday Musings: problematic patterns

I recently wrote about how wherever you go, there you are. That post and its sentiments have followed me around like a dark cloud since putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as the case may be). At its heart, that post is about patterns. This past week, I attended a Neuroleadership Institute Summit and, as one would expect with a conference about neuroscience, I heard a lot about how our brains form patterns, and how challenging it can be to reprogram our brain to form new patterns.  For the record, patterns aren’t always a bad thing. In fact, many serve us well and free our mind from needless clutter. It’s just that not all of them do.

Herein lies why that post has sat so heavily with me. Among my many patterns, one is continuing to move into new jobs only to become quickly and intensely frustrated, at which point I become incapable of seeing anything beyond the negative. I get the flight syndrome, the sudden urge to escape and move on to greener pastures. And yet, when I start to look elsewhere, I look at the exact same types of roles, as though somehow a new organization or new colleagues or new mission, vision and values will somehow change the work itself. It makes no sense.

Except that it makes perfect sense. Because our brains are wired to keep us in a state of homeostasis, we will automatically choose the path of least resistance when faced with the discomfort of change. Change is perceived as a threat by our brains, and our brains cannot actually distinguish between real and perceived threat.  It’s fascinating, until you’re the one stuck in the pattern and seemingly unable to kick yourself out of the rut. Then it’s a pain in the ass, and then I get stuck in yet another job that frustrates the hell out of me and I’m left asking myself why I keep falling into the same pattern when I know it yields the same troubling results time after time.

I’ve broken problematic patterns in the past: the urge to pick up and move as a means of changing who I am (yes, I’m moving again in a few months, but no, this time it’s not to be a different me in a new place), dating essentially the same (wrong) person over and over again, or continually making friends with flaky people who aren’t there for me the way I want friends to be. I’ve broken all those patterns over time. What I’m not clear on is what was the impetus for change in those scenarios? Was there a straw that broke the camel’s back or was it just the recognition that the pattern needed to break and a willful intention to make things different? I suspect it was the former, which is troubling because it seems the more emotionally exhausting and less direct way to break a pattern. Either way, this current pattern needs to be broken. I need to trick this little brain of mine to stop sounding the alarms every time I contemplate a career change. I don’t know how to do that yet, but when I do, look out world.

TWIR #79: a whole lotta walking

Well, I’m just going to confess. I worked out twice. Twice in one week. I’m not kidding. I was travelling. I got sick. Excuses, excuses. But before you judge, just know that I walked and walked and walked. And walked. Sure, most of that walking was to bakeries and other treats, but let’s set that aside. This will be short and sweet, so let’s get to it.

Activity: walk, walk, walking
Relevant Stats: 14 km
Observations: We walked from King West to the Distillery District, and back again, and then a whole bunch of other walking to parts of Toronto I can’t even name. Especially with a cold, I feel like that’s pretty impressive. My reward (and more to come on all these treats): a fancy-ass dipped soft serve treat. Worth every kilometre walked.

Activity: more walking
Relevant Stats: 15 km
Observations: Walking was one of the few things that unclogged my stuffed nasal passages, so I kept moving as much as possible.  I longed for gelato, and spent most of the afternoon scanning streets for it, yet somehow came back empty handed. Don’t you worry, though, there were plenty of other treats (again, more to come on all my travel sweets).

Activity: airport sitting
Relevant Stats: 6 hours at Pearson (ugh)
Observations: My big lesson from Monday was that it is never a good idea to attempt to save money by sharing a cab to the airport at an earlier time than you need to. I arrived already knowing I’d have to kill three hours before my flight, but then my flight got delayed by two hours, and then by another hour and suddenly I spent the entire day, often livid, in windowless gates deep in the bowels of Pearson airport. My reward for this was a giant slice of carrot cake from the famed Magnolia Bakery when I (finally) arrived in New York.

Activity: epic walk
Relevant Stats: 17 km
Observations: The sun was shining. It was 80 degrees in October (!?!). I walked to one bakery, then to the opposite end of Manhattan to another bakery. That’s commitment to finding baked goods. While I’m under no illusion that 17 km of walking balanced out the caloric intake, all that walking was certainly healthier than taking the subway.

Activity: strength training (!!!) with minimal walking
Relevant Stats: 45 min. strength training + 5 km
Observations: OMG, I made it to the gym! Finally, after nearly a week off, I visited the Sheraton’s supposed world-class fitness centre (you already know how I feel about hotel gyms). It was a decent workout, and I even managed to knock out some negative pull ups, from which my arms have still not recovered. My reward: more cake and attending the live taping for Late Night with Seth Meyers (!!!!!!). A good day.

Activity: strength training + walking
Relevant Stats: 45 min. strength training + 15 km walkig
Observations: This workout was even better. I actually felt awake and energetic, and I still managed to bust out a long-ass walk in search of a stuffed cookie which turned out to be my greatest disappointment.  Let me tell you, though, by the time I got back to the hotel at 6:50 pm, I was done with walking and done with New York (yes, that is possible).

Activity: mostly sitting on airplanes but some walking
Relevant Stats: 9.2 km walking
Observations: I am always amazed when I accumulate any kilometres on travel days. I had to get up at 4:25 a.m. today, which is really just a completely ridiculous hour at which to get out of bed. Somehow, I managed to wander airports so aimlessly that I had almost 4 km of walking under my belt before I even got home, where the sunshine beckoned me to walk another 5ish km.

Although I had some good adventures and some great sugar finds, I cannot tell you how happy I am to be home, lounging in pajamas before 7 pm because, let’s be honest, I probably won’t make it up past 8 tonight. It was an exhausting week of travel and I’m looking forward to some solid laziness, but also getting back to normal with my workouts. I promise a more typical TWIR next week. Until then, happy weekend y’all!

Mid-Week Tangent: my sugar addiction known no bounds

Alternatively, this post could be titled: “what you do in New York when you are travelling alone for a conference,  you don’t like to dine out alone and you are over the party scene” or, perhaps more aptly, “the day I walked 17 km for baked goods.”

I’m in New York for a conference the better part of this week. This is my fifth trip to the city, but notably different in that I’m travelling alone and am also, let’s face it, an old lady on the inside. I have no interest in the night life. The only night life I want is a full night’s uninterrupted sleep. I have no interest in shopping. I want no mortgage more than I want new clothes and shoes. I still refuse to dine alone in a legit, sit down restaurant. Call me insecure. You would be right.

And so, yesterday I did the next best thing to living the NYC wild life: I walked 150 city blocks in search of New York’s finest treats and baking. I walked twenty blocks in one direction for a cookie, then walked twenty blocks back to my hotel. Then, as if that weren’t lunacy enough, I walked FIFTY  FIVE city blocks to check out some fancy cupcakes. The sane thing at that point would have been to take the subway back to my hotel, but I’ve never been one to do the sane thing. So of course I walked.

This walking spree doesn’t even take into account the 10 blocks I walked at lunch in search of a bakery I never found and the other 10 blocks I walked to get dinner. That’s a lot of walking, 17 km to be exact. For a cookie. And some cupcakes. I kid you not.*

So yes you got that right. I came to NYC and didn’t buy a single item of clothing, didn’t sip a single cocktail (!!!) and didn’t dine at any of its hottest spots. But I did walk 17km in one day solely for baked goods, and I think that’s a pretty fine accomplishment.

*If you’re wondering and/or a sugar addict like me, yes I will be writing a whole post about the assortment of treats I’ve tracked down and consumed on this trip.

Tuesday Fitness Fail: Lost Tennis Opportunities

As we were packing up our house, I came across my tennis racket. I haven’t used my tennis racket in about a decade. In fact, when I say “my racket”, I actually mean the hand-me-down racket that boyfriend gifted me because I discarded mine years ago in Calgary when it had already been sadly neglected for close to 5 years. Suffice it to say, I haven’t played tennis in 10 years, so when I came across the tennis racket and had to decide whether it came to our temporary rental or went into storage until we move into our new place, the decision seemed obvious: send it into storage.

My thought process went something like this: I haven’t played tennis in 10 years. I don’t have anyone to play with, anyways. Where would I even play? It’s almost winter. I’m rusty and out of practice. It takes up too much space. The list goes on and on. All I can say now is: rookie mistake.

As it turns out, there are tennis courts all around me. There are some right across the street. There are other nearby courts. Worst of all, just 1.5 km from our house, there is a court with a practice wall! This was the most devastating of discoveries because the practice wall eliminates my most significant obstacle: having no opponent. It also doesn’t help that we’re having a gloriously sunny and mild Fall so far, which makes me want to do nothing but get out there and dust off the old backhand.

Now, every time we walk past a tennis court, I stare at it longingly, and imagine my poor tennis racket stuffed in a box with other fitness gear, never to see the light of day until next Spring. I think about how I could be getting my (supremely mediocre) game back in action. I imagine my former hustle, lightning fast chasing down balls. My whole game used to revolve around my hustle. When I imagine all of this lost opportunity, I kick myself and wish that I’d had the foresight to anticipate that the magical confluence of free time, neighborhood parks and balmy autumnal weather could resurrect my game.

TWIR #78: test run

We are in our new ‘hood and there are parks galore around us and I couldn’t resist attempting a bit of running. When I say “a bit” of running, I really mean it. It’s now been so long since I ran that I’m actually not physically capable of anything more than a bit of running. Sigh. At any rate, so far the body is holding up okay. Fingers crossed that it lasts. We’ve also been going for daily post-work walks, which is lovely now that I get home from work at a reasonable time, and good for a bit of extra movement every day. While they are certainly not workouts, every little bit counts and I feel far better for it…although I was questioning our commitment to daily walks the day that I tripped over a very large and very dead rat on the sidewalk. Yikes! Good thing I’m not afraid of rodents! This seems like a great time to transition to the week’s workouts, doesn’t it? No one wants to talk about dead rats.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: moving day!
Observations: There was nothing restful about this day. We moved all our temporary belongings, of which there were many, and many of which were very heavy, from upstairs to downstairs. Then we loaded them into our cars. Then we unloaded them into our new place. There were a lot of heavy things carried multiple times. There was also last minute house-cleaning , new house unpacking, and then the mad rush to get ready for a wedding that evening. Needless to say we were exhausted. We left the wedding at 10 pm, an unacceptable hour at which to leave a wedding, but trust me when I say I was ready to roll a good hour before that. So yeah, not a real rest day in my books.

Activity: pitch and putt course
Relevant Stats: 3 hours (!!!!) of slow ass golf
Observations: We walked our new ‘hood and discovered way too many tasty temptations. I’d like to say that the walk and world’s slowest round of golf worked off the giant dulce de leche donut I consumed, but I know it didn’t. Still, it felt like an active day and after Saturday’s balls to the wall activity level, a bit of a legit rest day was in order.

Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: I must’ve been working hard on the spin bike because a personal trainer came up to me to tell me so, and then asked if I needed help training for anything. I resisted the urge to tell him if a year with my actual personal trainer didn’t have me running ready, I doubted he would be able to. All in all, it was a short but decent workout. I’m starting to forget what one hour cardio workouts feel like. I’m sure one would kill me now, anyway.

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: She had me towing the damn sled with weights again. Ugh. I have to tell you, I was excited for this session because it was my first where I didn’t have to get up at 5 am to make it there. I thought I was going to feel fantastic. I did not. My best guess is that the 45 minute drive I used to make allotted sufficient time to wake up, plus I used to down an entire travel mug of coffee before the workout. I had neither of these things for this week’s session and I felt sluggish and exhausted the entire time.

Activity: spin + elliptical + strength
Relevant Stats: 35 or 40 minutes
Observations: This was by far my worst workout of the week. I had high hopes because it was my last work day for the week and I thought my pre-vacation happiness would bolster my workout. Nope. I was trying to check in for flights when I first got on the spin bike and let’s just say I was having issues and, as I am wont to do, I got supremely frustrated beyond the point that anyone should over checking in for flights. I had no patience for spinning, and then no patience for the elliptical. Only when I was back squatting out of my rage was I happy with my workout.

Activity: new neighborhood park workout!!!!!! And RUNNING intervals!!!!!!!
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: I love, love, love my new neighborhood and its proximity to a park that has a running track and good concrete blocks for all sorts of interval workout exercises. Plus it’s now brisk in the mornings so I don’t feel like I’m going to die from the heat. The best part, though, was that I RAN to the park (calm down, it’s maybe 500 m from my house), and then RAN laps in between walking lunges, push ups and other sets of exercises. You have no idea how happy I was. It was a legitimately great workout, but I was also ecstatic to be working out outside. Now I just have to survive the next few days without an SI setback…

Activity: semi-planned rest day
Relevant Stats: ugh.
Observations: I have learned that planning a workout on the first day of a trip, no matter how short, is often just a pipe dream. After two hours of sleep and waking up feeling like a cold may have descended on me, I gave up on any hope of a workout.

There we have it, another week of workouts down and another weekend ahead. Happy Thanksgiving to all the Canadians out there! We’ll be wandering the streets of Toronto and meeting my baby nephew for the first time. My goal is to fit in some travel workouts, too, which is infinitely more challenging now that running isn’t a great option for me. Wish me luck!

Mid-Week Tangent: Dangers of a New Neighborhood

I am in love with my new neighborhood and the impact it has on my commute (hello, 15 minutes!), but there is a dark side to my new neighborhood: it’s full of tempting and delicious…and expensive distractions.

We walked 10 blocks in each direction from our house and discovered all manner of ways for us to fritter away our money. There are pizza shops, and fusion restaurants galore, and dear lord there is a Dairy Queen a mere 600 metres from my doorstep. I should not be allowed to live so close to my beloved pecan mudslides. Not only are they dangerous for my health but they also put a serious ding in the pocket book, weighing in (pun intended) at a steep $7 per treat.

Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of temptations at my doorstep now.  The one benefit of the suburban life was that very few temptations were within walking distance. Ultimately, I am too lazy to get into my car to drive for treats, but I will walk to them in a heartbeat. This does not bode well for me in my new neighborhood.

Already, in the span of three days, we’ve visited a nearby bakery twice. I am not normally a fan of yeasted donuts (cake donuts for life), but this donut was the best yeasted donut I’ve ever had. And I didn’t have to pay upwards of $4 for it, nor step foot in a hipster donut haven. I wish I could share a picture with you of this dulce de leche stuffed donut coated in thick caramel frosting but I devoured it so quickly that you get only this:

If you look closely, you may be able to see remnants of its deliciousness.

At this point, I am deeply concerned about our bank balances and our waist lines. This could be a very, very dangerous five months for us.