TWIR #53: In a Good Flow

This week in training, I was able to increase the time devoted to my workouts, which means that my body is tired. My spirit, on the other hand, is high because despite more time and more workouts, my body is holding itself together. That is definite cause for celebration, most likely to be in the form of wine this weekend!

Activity: Hike
Relevant Stats: 11 km return, 400 m elevation gain
Observations: Oh. My. God. I need to hit the trails more often. This “hike” should not have been difficult in the slightest but, let me tell you, my legs were not interested in going uphill.  At all.

Activity: cardio warmup + strength
Relevant Stats: 30 min. walk/run + 60 min. strength
Observations: I tackled my fear of sciatica head on after 15 minutes of incline walking and decided nothing, not even pain, could be worse than treadmill walking for another second. Thankfully I was able to run without any sign of sciatica. I was so fired up from 15 minutes of running that I stuck around for a full hour of strength training. Three cheers for getting back to 90 minute workouts.

Activity: Run
Relevant Stats: 7ish km
Observations: I was going to make this my rest day, and in hindsight I should have. I had a crappy meeting in the afternoon that put me in a positively fowl mood. I tried to run it off, but sometimes running is not the right medicine. I struggled through 4 miles and called it a day.

Activity: personal training + cardio
Relevant Stats: 60 min. training session + 2o minutes stairs/rowing/stretching
Observations: I was choked to see that my most favourite gym location had yet to fix the broken spin bike and, to add insult to injury, took away the second spin bike.  I was planning to add on a good post-training-session spin ride,  but couldn’t handle the spin bike whose seat falls down every five minutes.  I had to settle for stairs and some rowing, both of which I loathe. Still, another session longer than 60 minutes was a win.

Activity: spin + strength
Relevant Stats: 45 min. spin + 45 minutes strength
Observations: The second spin bike was back!!!! Hallelujah! I was super excited…until I actually started spinning and realized that my legs were still damn tired. It didn’t help that I was on day number two of super early mornings and wanted nothing more than to be back in bed. I consider it a major feat that I was able to last an hour and a half.

Activity: cardio warmup + strength
Relevant Stats: 10 min. incline walking/rowing + 50 minutes strength
Observations:  Day three of early mornings and the perplexing removal of the second spin bike (seriously, why do they keep taking it away?!?!) left me grumpy and unmotivated. I managed an hour, and it was a fairly high quality workout, but I was not happy about it. Also, my arms were done like dinner by the end of this one.

Activity: Hike
Relevant Stats: 4 km return, 330 m elevation gain
Observations: I was dead set on having a good, old-fashioned, lazy rest day today since I really haven’t had one yet this week. I was in my pajamas until 12:30 with zero intention of getting out of them. But a friend of mine was persistent in urging me to join her for a quick hike. I had no good reason not to go, other than my laziness (which I personally feel would’ve been a perfectly acceptable reason) so I acquiesced. I admit I had zero enthusiasm for it but, as with most workouts, as soon as it was done I was happy I’d gone.  Now I can reward myself with wine tonight and one hell of a lazy rest day tomorrow.

All in all, I’m starting to feel good about my progress. I feel like I’m on the path to a good hiking season if I can just get my endurance back to its old levels. Although my workouts are longer these days, I’m not spending nearly enough time focused on cardio endurance. I’m still finding it difficult to get excited about using cardio machines at the gym, and the weather has most definitely not been cooperating for hitting the trails (think rain for weeks on end). Also, these are all excuses. Before I start getting all negative, let’s focus on the good because this week I’m:


Mid-Week Tangent: Starbucks Table Hogs

I’ve never really contemplated how annoying I might be when I camp out at a Starbucks table for hours on end, nursing nothing but a tiny cup of black coffee.  I have now been on the other side and I am ashamed of my table-hogging behaviour.

Today, as I stood there in what is quite possibly one of the most poorly configured, tiny Starbucks’ imaginable, I held my short cup of black coffee (not even a tall!) wanting nothing more than to write today’s blog post about a completely different topic while killing time between meetings. Sadly, as I looked around, I could see that my goal of abusing Starbucks’ generous free wi-fi policy was in serious jeopardy.  There were no seats. Actually, that’s not entirely true.  There were available chairs at semi-occupied tables, but let me tell you there were clear signs that others were not welcome at these tables.

This should’ve been me.

Let me summarize the lot of Starbucks table hoggers that I encountered:

–The I’m-saving-this-table-with-nothing-but-a-single-glove woman: I mistakenly assumed that I could use a chair at the table but was not-so-kindly advised that “Oh, that table is mine. That’s why my glove is there” as if it’s universally known that leaving a glove lying on a table is marking your territory. Let me also add that her glove was placed at a table for two. I gathered from her comment and tone that she would not be open to donating her second chair to me and my laptop.

–The I’m-talking-on-the-phone-so-you-can’t-ask-me-if-you-can-share-my-table woman and man (yes, there were two of these): I mean, really, who sits at Starbucks to gab on the phone? Everyone around you would clearly be eavesdropping on your conversation while simultaneously finding you highly annoying.

–The I’m-not-even-drinking-a-coffee guy: I’m sure at one point the person was consuming either food or coffee, but I feel like once you dispose of any evidence that you’re a paying customer you should forfeit your right to a table. Starbucks, you are far too lenient. What made this guy worse is that I’m fairly certain he knew I was looking for a chair, and yet he continued to just sit there, doing nothing, drinking nothing and eating nothing. And, though I can’t prove it, I swear he appeared smugly satisfied that he was depriving me of a seat.

–The I’m-going-to-take-up-the-entire-table-top-with-just-my-laptop guy: This was actually the most overt and creative way I saw someone clearly imply that he was not up for sharing his table. He sat on one side of the table. His laptop occupied the exact opposite side the table.  To type, he had to stretch almost his entire arm span across the table, which looked beyond awkward and uncomfortable.  I actually sort of respected it, though, as it’s something my anti-social self would do in a heartbeat.

Long story long, I didn’t get a seat and I didn’t write my blog post ahead of time, and I was hugely grumpy arriving to my next meeting. On the bright side, I have a new-found empathy for others who I may have kept from a much needed hour of table-space in a crowded coffee shop. From here on in, I solemnly vow never to violate social norms by needlessly nor excessively occupying table space. You have my word on it.

Training Tuesdays: Dealing with Sciatica as a Runner

Sciatica is the worst. In fact, I’d be so bold as to say that my SI-related pain has been a walk in the park compared to sciatic pain, and that’s saying a lot since sacroiliac pain is certainly no picnic.  I have never experienced an injury as debilitating and painful as sciatica.  Even worse, sciatica pretty much renders running impossible.

If you’re a runner struggling with injury-induced sciatica, allow me to share some of the things I’ve found most helpful to speed up the healing process and minimize recurrence. Please note: as is likely abundantly clear from this blog in general, I am not a medical professional so you should always consult with a pro for legit advice.

1.Figure out the cause of your sciatica: Sciatica is not a condition in and of itself. It can be brought on by a variety of back issues, none of which I’ll describe in detail. What’s critical, however, is knowing what’s at the heart of your sciatica as it will influence how to cope with it.

2.For the love of God, keep moving:  Though tempting to curl up in a fetal ball, which is personally the only comfortable position I’ve found when in the throes of sciatica, remaining sedentary is about the worst thing you can do.  With acute pain, short walks on flat ground are the way to go (hills are sciatica’s enemy).  As pain improves, walking and cycling have been my best friends.  With cycling, however, I’d recommend using spin bikes at the gym, as they provide you with a quicker escape route should you experience any extreme pain (i.e. it’s easier to hop off a spin bike and hobble to the locker room at the gym than to be a 10 km bike ride from home). As someone who brought on a sciatic attack just by changing her pants, you never know what could trigger pain; best to be in a controlled environment in the early stages of recovery.

3. Stretch, stretch, stretch: Stretching is more of a preventative strategy for me. In an acute sciatic episode, stretching is not going to feel good, nor may it actually be possible.  Once the sciatic pain starts to alleviate, getting into a rhythm of stretching can start to loosen tense muscles surrounding the sciatic nerve which, in turn, lessens pressure on the sciatic nerve. I’ve also found that daily glute and hamstring stretches have been tremendously helpful, devoting extra time to stretching any time I run.  I feel it’s important to emphasize that all my stretching is post-workout. I am not one for static stretching as a ‘warm up’. I’ve been advised against static stretching by any of my many, many, many physiotherapists (see #6 for more on warm-ups).

4. Do NOT foam roll (or at least be cautious foam rolling): Take it from me, someone who learned this the hard way, foam rolling over the sciatic nerve is not a good call. While wonderful for relieving muscle tension, foam rolling is an aggravated nerve’s worst nightmare. In fact, it could kickstart more acute sciatica. Foam roll surrounding muscles but steer well clear of the actual sciatic nerve. If you aren’t sure of where the sciatic nerve is located, I’d abstain from foam rolling altogether. Be particularly careful rolling your piriformis as the sciatic nerve is very close by (and, for a small percentage of the population, actually passes through the piriformis!).

5. Get your strength on: I get it, you want to get back to running and focus on maintaining your running fitness. Unfortunately, you may have to take some time out to focus on building strength.  Depending on the cause of your sciatica, it could mean building strength in your back or your glutes (or both). This is where it’s helpful to seek professional consultation to figure out what’s at the heart of your sciatica so you can target your strengthening work.  Who knows, you may even learn to enjoy strength training days. My physiotherapist once told me that I would learn to enjoy strength training as a legitimate workout and I scoffed at him. Cardio for life, I said.  However, here I am eleven months post-injury legitimately seeing value in my strength training sessions, and genuinely excited to see my strength consistently improving. Of course, I’ll never give him the satisfaction of admitting it.

6. Warm up, damn it:  Gone are the days when I could jump out of bed and into my running shoes. While static stretches are not something I’d use to warm up for a run, I have found that warm up activities are a great preventative measure. Warming up, either with walking or active stretching, is particularly helpful for SI-related sciatica. The more I can get those muscles ready to move, the less likelihood they’re going to tense up, spasm, and cause sciatic irritation.

7. Learn when to back off: When I’m running, I know the early signs of sciatica. I believe everyone has to learn their own early warning signs. For me, I’ll experience one of two early symptoms: a tight and weak-feeling calf muscle in only my right leg, or a hamstring that I describe as feeling like it’s about to snap (once again, only on my right leg). If either of these things occur while I’m running, it’s game over. No matter how badly I want to run through it and get my distance in for the day, it’s time to stop running.

No matter how you slice it, sciatica is going to mean some time off running, but if you take the time to seek the root cause of your sciatica you can get back to running much faster.  Even once you’re back to running, don’t let go of good, preventative measures like building strength and stretching.  Consistency truly is key. Okay, enough soap-boxing for me, show that sciatica who’s boss so you can get back to running!

Monday Musings: Wardrobe Woes

Four years ago, I left stodgier corporate environments behind for hipster-casual, tech sector gigs. Gone were the days of heels, dress pants and dresses.  Given my tendency to inhabit tiny spaces, and despite my tendency to cling to clothing under the “I might want to wear that again one day” clause, I finally realized my closet space was at too high a premium to be cluttered with things I didn’t wear.  There was no turning back. Out went bag upon bag of perfectly good corporate attire (don’t worry, I donated it all), and I officially became a casually dressed employee.

Wearing jeans and t-shirts and converse all-stars to work is wonderful in so many ways. I’ve never believed that what you wear is indicative of how good you are at your work.  But dressing casual 100% of the time is only great until you no longer work in the tech sector and have to face the harsh reality that not all organizations are so progressive with their dress codes.  I have at least ten pairs of jeans and countless cute but not-at-all-dressy sweaters. I have casual, slip-on shoes for all occasions. I have leggings. I have t-shirts galore. What I’ve realized is that none of these are going to work for me as I transition, yet again, in my work life. Translation: Shit, I have nothing to wear to prospective client meetings.

Currently, in my possession, I have only the following assortment of clothing that is even remotely suitable for meeting prospective clients or employers:
–1 pair slightly snug dress pants
–1 classic black blazer in need of a solid dry cleaning
–2 black dresses that may or may not fit a this point, and which can only be worn with tights as they may be just a smidge shorter than my pasty legs can handle
–3 skirts with absolutely no tops of the style and shape that can be worn with the skirts, essentially rendering them useless

That is it. The rest of my wardrobe is awesome only if I want to run back into the arms of tech start-up environments (which I do not), attend a clam bake at the beach, or pop out to the grocery store to pick up that one thing from my list that I always seem to forget.  It’s tempting to go out and restock my whole wardrobe and yet even this is problematic.  For one, I don’t know what type of work I’ll land in and, therefore, what type of wardrobe is suitable.  Secondly, being unemployed makes it less fun–actually, make that less possible–to go out and blow hundreds of dollars on new clothes.

Thankfully, for now at least, I can get away with wearing virtually the same outfit to meetings with different prospective employers and clients…assuming, that is, that they don’t all get together to hash out the best and worst dressed consultants that they interview. So if you’re frequenting Vancouver’s coffee shops and trendy lunch spots, I’ll be that girl in the same slightly-too-snug dress pants and well-worn blazer day after day after day (after day). Just don’t tell the people I’m sitting with that I only have one solid outfit.  That’s our little secret.

TWIR #52: One Year Anniversary Edition!!!

Technically speaking (for those who are sticklers for rules), this is actually TWIR #53 but since I didn’t post last Friday, I am stealing this opportunity to celebrate the one year anniversary of TWIRs…one week late. Better late than never is an expression for a reason.  So this week you get a double bonus TWIR, part week-in-review but also part year-in-review because my, oh my, what a year it has been.  I went from full-on ultra training to full-on injury recovery with a whole lot of ups and down along the way. Let’s get this party started.

First up, the brief and condensed TWIR:

Activity: golf course stalking
Relevant Stats: 20 km walked
Observations in five words or less: Go Adam Hadwin!

Activity: sitting on airplanes
Relevant Stats: longest day ever
Observations in five words or less: Air Canada sucks

Activity: Run!!! + unweighted strength
Relevant Stats: 7 km run + 20 min. strength
Observations in five words or less: running is hard

Activity: personal training session + short cardio burst
Relevant Stats: 60 min. training session + 20 min. spin
Observations in five words or less: my trainer is evil

Activity: cardio warm up + strength
Relevant Stats: 20 min. stairs + 45 min. strength
Observations in five words or less: I still hate my gym

Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 1/2 block run
Observations in five words or less: best laid plans…

Activity: cardio warmup + strength
Relevant Stats: 30 min. cardio (stairs + hills) and 60 min. strength
Observations in five words or less: penance for yesterday

And now onto your bonus part two TWIR extravaganza, the year in review (YIR). This blog was meant to be all about ultra training, which clearly went off the rails last April.  Now, I’m focused on sustained injury recovery and building back my old base of fitness.  In other words, not only has this year been completely unexpected, but it’s also been a doozy. Along the way, I’ve had some big goals, major wins, just a few (she says sarcastically) obstacles and a whole lot of learning. I think this pretty much sums it up:

Happy Friday y’all. Here’s hoping that 2017 continues to bring joint stability my way. Thanks for following me so far on this running-turned-injury-recovery journey.

Throwback Thursday: That Time I Took a Million Awkward Photos of Golfers

In addition to visiting Disney parks last week, we also attended two days of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.  Before you say it, yes I know that you think watching golf is about as boring as watching paint dry. It’s nothing I haven’t heard before. If you want to know how I came about being a golf fan, you can check out my post from last week.  Now, let’s get back to the real story here.

We attended two days of the tournament and I was amazed (and relieved, too) to find watching live golf even more fun than watching on television. Why? I got to pseudo-stalk my favourite golfers. It sounds worse than it is.  I mean, you’re there to follow golfers around the course so it’s not really stalking, but I did find that I have quite the knack for taking awkward photos of golfers, ones that I imagine to be be similar to those of a stalker. Don’t believe me? I am going to prove it to you.

You’ll notice a definite style in this series of photos and I like to call that style “take photos of subjects who have no idea they are being photographed, so much so that they fail to even look in the general direction of the photographer”.  I can’t imagine it will make for a lucrative photography career, but it’s a style I can embrace as my own.

Above: Jason Day, though you can barely tell because he’s not only not looking at the camera, but barely looking up at all. Because of this, you also can’t tell that he’s quite irritated with himself for just missing a birdie putt.

Above: Ryan Moore, though once again you can barely tell because his face is mostly shielded by his hat. He also just missed a birdie putt.

Above: Hideki Matsuyama looks like a sourpuss in this photo but it’s not indicative of his play. He looks that way even when he’s winning, which is precisely why he’s not one of my favourites.

Above: Here I progress to slightly more creepy photography, capturing Rickie Fowler from behind. What I wish you could see is that he was wearing fluorescent green pants with this bright yellow shirt. Only he can pull this off.

Above: Adam Hadwin (a fellow Canadian!) pays zero attention to my camera even though I desperately want to celebrate his miraculous par save on this hole. Also, he is sponsored by Shaw and I used to work there so I somehow feel we should be friends in real life.

Above: My crowning achievement of the tournament: a close-up of my golf crush Rory McIlroy. It almost looks like he is looking at the camera, until you actually look at his eyes and once again, his attention is elsewhere. Sigh. Though I got an excellent picture, I got no high five from Rory. Only the little kids got those. Damn children for being so adorable.

Above: And finally my top creepy achievement, an intentional picture of Jason Day’s butt. Why? I have no idea except why the hell not???

So there you have it. If you’re looking to hire a sports photographer to take sub par and slightly awkward photos of golfers, I am clearly your gal. I’ll be waiting by the phone for your calls.

Mid-Week Tangent: Disney Treat Fail

As you may know from Monday’s post, I spent a few days in Disney World (aka the dark side) last week. Normally, one of my favourite things about Disney parks is the opportunity to jam countless treats into my face. There are so many deliciously different ways to dramatically exceed your daily recommended caloric intake. Despite this, I completely failed to take advantage of the multitude of sinful options at my fingertips and I am already deeply regretful. I managed only one Mickey Mouse pretzel and about eight white chocolate chip cookies. That may sound like a big accomplishment, but it is such a minuscule representation of what was available. Sigh. What was I thinking?

And so, in honour of my failure and perhaps to serve as a motivator for you to take full advantage of any of your future Disney adventures, I present to you a list of all the things that I did not eat but sorely wish that I had:

1. About five more Mickey Mouse pretzels: Let’s face it, one pretzel is not enough, particularly when accompanied by the completely-wrong-yet-somehow-oh-so-right artificial cheese dip. I am the person who uses the entire container of cheese dip and wishes she had more (as opposed to my boyfriend, who barely makes a dent in his, a feat that I cannot at all comprehend but which greatly benefits me as I get his extras). Though the Mickey Mouse pretzels are nowhere near as good as most soft pretzels I’ve consumed virtually anywhere else, they do somehow taste more magical. I fully regret not consuming them daily.

2. Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Sandwiches: These are just Oreo ice cream cookie sandwiches, something that I can buy on any given day in my local grocery store. Still, they somehow taste better and more magical in the parks. It has been years since I’ve had one. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t have one. If you read Monday’s post, you know that it was what can only be described as f’ing cold the entire time we were in the parks. I wish that I were the person who could put aside being cold for long enough to eat ice cream, but I’m usually not. I was uncomfortably cold and made the (foolish and wrong, in hindsight) decision to forego ice cream in favour of warmth. Rookie mistake.

3. Churros: Unlike ice cream, churros are warm and comforting on a cold day. I have no idea why I did not consume a single churro, except that I was under some misguided notion that I should be hungry in order to snack. I have no idea why I sometimes stick to such ridiculous principles. I am ashamed of myself.

4. Dole Whip: Who doesn’t love a good Dole Whip? The answer to that question can only be someone whose soul is dead. It is a miraculous feat of food engineering. How else can you explain a product that is largely the result of food thickeners and a slew of artificial ingredients that is, surprisingly, low in actual pineapple? Still, it is delicious. Similar to my Mickey Mouse ice cream cookie sandwich rationale, it was simply too cold for me to contemplate such a treat. Now that I am back in Vancouver, where it is not only cold but also rainy and grey, I can truly see the error of my ways. At least in Florida it was sunny and there was the illusion of warmth. I can barely forgive myself for this oversight.

5. Frozen Banana: I know, I know, no one really likes the frozen banana. It’s frozen fruit on a stick. It has a paper-thin simulated chocolate shellac that gives you the false impression you’re indulging when you are actually not. They are quite repugnant. I wanted to eat one only to pay homage to Arrested Development (“there’s always money in the banana stand”). Also, see rationale for numbers 2 and 4 (i.e. it was freaking cold).

6. Daily Cupcake: I have no interest in commercially produced cupcakes, whatsoever. They are always a let-down. The cake is almost always either dry, flavourless, spongey or some combination thereof. Frosting, however, is single-handedly worth the cupcake investment. I am only somewhat ashamed to admit that I have been known to eat just the frosting, sometimes accompanied by a tiny portion of the cupcake if only to stave off social judgements. I saw countless cupcakes crowned with an ice cream scoop sized mound of frosting and yet, somehow, I showed uncharacteristic restraint by never ordering one. Similar to the churro rationale, my cupcake fail was largely due to feeling as though I should be hungry in order to eat one.  As a result of my poor decision making, I have no choice but to delude myself into believing that the frosting was likely wretched shortening-based frosting instead of a true buttercream.  But even I know I am just lying to myself.

7. Ice cream cookie sandwich from Scoops in Hollywood Studios: Ever since I had the dreamiest and most insanely delicious ice cream cookie sandwich at Hello Robin in Seattle, I have been on the hunt for more. When I was forced to stand in a ride line behind a girl eating a Scoops ice cream cookie sandwich for the better part of 45 minutes, my poor boyfriend had to listen to me go on and on about how I was going to get one as soon as humanly possible. And yet I did not. Ever. I have no good excuse for my failure here, and instead offer up two piss-poor ones: I assumed the ice cream wouldn’t be as delicious as the ice cream at Hello Robin (which turned out to be true as I did try Scoops ice cream sans cookie) and I feared my boyfriend would silently judge me for eating an ungodly thick layer of ice cream wedged between two giant cookies as a mid-day snack. He claims he wouldn’t have, but I could see the look of incredulity, or perhaps even mild repulsion, in his eyes when I first suggested it.

Do yourself a favour and do not follow my lead in eating your way through Disney Parks. Instead of returning full of magic and sugar and a few extra pounds, I have returned full only of my own regret. No one should have to live in regret, so please go forth and eat all of the things.