Monday Musings: what I learned on my first 5k run in 5 months

I ran yesterday. For the first time in at least five months. And I ran 5 km. Well, actually, I ran 5.7 km thankyouverymuch. Actually, it’s more accurate to say I ran 6-7 minutes at a time sprinkled with some walking breaks because apparently you’re not supposed to go from not running at all to running 5 km, especially when you’re injury prone, which I think we can all agree that I am. But I am starting to digress.

I came out of that run feeling the most positive about a run that I’ve felt in a long time, which I assure you is not my usual state. I’m usually one to be highly self-critical, to beat myself up about how far I have to go, how much slower and less fit I am now than I used to be.  To be sure, those thoughts crossed my mind throughout my run.  In fact, a running tally of my thoughts would have looked something like this:

Okay, here we go. We are doing this. Yes we are.  Oh my god, have I really only run two blocks? This is not a good sign. Okay, wait, this downhill stretch is kind of nice. I got this.  No wait, I was wrong, this ever-so-slight incline sucks. I don’t got this. Just slow your roll. This is your first run in months. There’s no hurry. You’re not going to win any races. Ah crap, other runners, I better pick up my pace so I don’t look completely incapable. How did I used to run these hills like they were nothing? This is the shortest hill ever and I am dying. I think that man is walking faster than I am running.  I think I could walk faster than I am running. Thank god that hill is over. Back to a reasonable incline and pace. Yeah, yeah I really do got this.  Another hill. WTF. Okay, okay, this is starting to feel okay. This is so much harder than it used to be. I am so slow now. You haven’t run in 5 months. What do you expect? It should feel hard. You know what, it’s not bad that it feels hard. This feels great. I am running again, people. Running. This is awesome. I wanted to do this today and I am doing it. Breathe in. Breathe out.  Keep moving. I forgot what this feels like. I did it. I am awesome. 

See? There’s a whole lotta negative in there. But if you’ll notice, and you will because I’m about to point out, I ended with positive thoughts.  This is the part that’s atypical for me.  I’m proud to say that I’ve been working with my coach on letting go.   What I mean by letting go is noticing all the pesky little unhelpful thoughts that go flitting through my head constantly, and proverbially letting them go in one ear and out the other.  I’m still a major (major) work in progress in this area, but I noticed on my run that once I let go of the thoughts about how much faster, fitter, and better I should be at running, suddenly the run was great. I finished feeling accomplished rather than discouraged. I want to try to run again (after suitable recovery days and making sure my SI doesn’t act up).  I felt good.

It’s hard to get into something, or get back into something, after time away, whether it’s running, working out in some other way, eating better, writing more, the list really does go on and on. What I learned from this run is that I am capable of letting go of all the negative chatter that makes me feel worse about a situation rather than better.  I can run 5.7 km in 40 minutes and feel good about it even though I know that I used to run 8 km in the same amount of time, even though every other runner out there was going faster than me, even though I had to work in walking breaks.  Instead, I can focus on the fact that I did it. I kept going.

If you’re trying to tackle new challenges in your life or recommit to old behaviors that you’ve let slide, I challenge you to pay attention to the critical, negative chatter inside your own head and see when and where it may be causing you to feel badly about your progress instead of celebrating your efforts.  If you’re putting one foot in front of the other, literally or metaphorically, you don’t have time for that chatter. Let it go.

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Monday Musings: on being a former (and maybe future) runner

About two years ago now, I signed up for an ultra marathon, a mountain ultra to be exact. This after having just one half marathon (which I hated) and one marathon (which I also hated) under my belt, and this also after never really being willing to commit to a legitimate training plan for any running event. Still, at the time it seemed a worthy and lofty goal…until my SI and sciatic crapped out on me.

I tried for a really long time, too long really, to get back into running. I pushed myself to the point of re-injury time and time again.  For the last six months, though, I’ve very intentionally bid a fond farewell to any real form of running. I’ve been content with maybe weekly, but maybe not weekly, interval running workouts at the track. Most of the time, running is a distant memory.

Every once in a while, though, I see people effortlessly bounding down the street or pack myself up for an indoor workout on a sunny day or dread having to drive to the gym for a workout because it’s such a time suck. Those are the moments when I remember the runner I used to be.

I see those runners go by and I think ‘that used to be me…only slower and with a much grouchier look on my face.’ When I look out the gym window and see sunshine I think ‘ahhh, it would be so nice to be out there instead of in here.’ And when it takes me an hour and a half to do a 45 minute workout because I have to drive and look for parking, I think ‘good god, I miss the days when I could throw on my shoes, open the door and just run.’ Sure, these moments are few and far between these days, but they’re still there enough to make me wonder if I will run again. I also wonder if running is just always part of your identity, even when you’re not actively doing it, or at least how long it takes to work its way out of how you see yourself.

The long and the short of it is that from time to time I wrestle with these questions. Other times, I welcome the break from pounding the pavement and wonder if my body is thanking me for sparing it further injury. When it’s pouring rain, I am thankful that I am not out there, like I used to be, getting soaked to the very core, to the point where not even a lengthy hot shower will take away the chills. When I’m able to spend an entire day doing whatever I want instead of organizing my day around a training run or my workout, I’m equally thankful. Running, it seems, can occasionally steal your spontaneity.

As with most things in life, being a runner is neither inherently good nor bad. It all depends, among other things, on what you want for your health, what your body will tolerate, what you love, and what you will sustain. For me, the verdict is still out on whether I will be a real runner again. For now, two years out from when I decided to give my first ultra a try, I’m still conflicted.

 

TWIR #92: longest week ever

Does anyone else feel like the first 5-day work week after the holidays is the longest week ever? Well, I do. Wednesday felt like Thursday. Thursday felt like Friday. You get the picture. It all adds up to my beyond ready for the weekend.  Alas, at least there were some decent workouts this week. Let’s see what I got up to.

Saturday
Activity: walk + planned rest day
Relevant Stats: 7 km walking
Observations:  Saturday rest days are the best. They involve a giant breakfast donut (yay cheat day!) plus a walk to the local farmer’s market. This week’s visit was a bit disappointing, though, because our onion guy wasn’t there. Seriously, this guy grows the best onions.  You know an onion must be beyond good if I’m taking time to specifically mention it.  Completely unrelated, do you ever have one of those days when you feel like you did nothing but walk all day but then it adds up to nothing? This was one of those days. Only 7 km!?! Wtf.

Sunday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: laziness 10 out of 10
Observations: Can I lie and say the day got away from me and that’s why I didn’t work out? In all honesty, I simply cannot bear the thought of driving to the gym on weekends and I also cannot bear the thought of a track workout in the rain. I have clearly become soft. The rain never used to phase me but now I shudder at the thought of working out outside in the rain, which is unfortunate given that it rains here EVERY DAY. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it feels that way. Instead of exercising, I lounged, read my book, did chores, and ran errands. It was perfect. Sometimes, you just have to take an extra rest day for your sanity.

Monday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Hallelujah to not having a headache anymore and to feeling a bit more energy! It was a sharp contrast to last week, and I made sure to fit in a solid workout while the energy was in me.  I even added weight to my step ups and single legged squats. On a Monday. That’s pretty impressive in my books.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session + return of the after work walk (!!!)
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: It’s been three weeks since my last training session and, even though I do a lot on my own, there’s something about my trainer’s exercises or combinations thereof that leave me so sore.  She also manages to integrate something new every week that I despise. This week’s torture: sideways bear crawls. Ugh. On a more positive note, the rain stopped (!!!!) and we were able to get out for an after work walk, something I find very soothing after an exhausting day at work.

Wednesday
Activity: strength training + after work walk (!!!)
Relevant Stats: 35 minutes
Observations: Everything in my lower body hurt after Tuesday’s session. I decided to focus on my arms, combining all of my least favourite upper body exercises only to spare my legs.  I succeeded in killing my arms, to the point where carrying my bag back from the gym felt like a workout.  But the big win was a second after-work walk of the week! This hasn’t happened since October. The only thing that could’ve made me more excited would’ve been a celebratory donut. Don’t worry, I abstained…but I promise you it was challenging since our walk took us right past our favourite bakery. Mmmm, donuts.

Thursday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: It was back to legs to spare my arms. I’m sensing a pattern here.  My big win was upping my prowler weight to 120 lbs in between sets of kettle bell side lunges and weighted single leg squats. My legs are not going to be pleased with me tomorrow. Honestly, sometimes I wonder what it would be like to not have half of my body in pain every single day of the week.

Friday
Activity: strength training(ish)
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: It’s somehow fitting that at the end of what I’ve deemed the longest week ever, I had what felt like the longest workout ever (even though it clearly was not).  I had little energy left in the tank for this workout. It could be because I left it until 2:30. It could be that I’ve overdone it other days this week. Or it could just be that it’s Friday and I’m done and I’m more than ready for the weekend.

On that note, I’m outta here. I’ve got some friends to see, some donuts to eat, some wine to drink, and some relaxing to do. Maybe, just maybe this weekend I’ll manage to fit in a workout…but no promises on that if this rain continues. Happy weekend y’all.

 

TWIR #90: Ho-ho-holiday workouts

Can you believe it’s the last TWIR of 2017? I can’t. Before I get all sad about the holiday season rapidly coming to a close, I’m just going to move right along into this week’s workout summary. I wish I could say I busted my butt more, especially since my sugar intake drastically increased this week, but at least I was able to fit in a few ho-ho-holiday workouts. Let’s see what I got up to.

Saturday
Activity: park workout!!!!!
Relevant Stats: 4.3 km of running (!!!!) + some intervals
Observations: One thing I learned pre-Christmas was that my posture while wrapping gifts is NOT appreciated by my lower back. The running didn’t both it at all, but it wasn’t having any side lunges, single-legged squats or anything else where form was critical to avoiding pain. Still the sun was shining, it was cold (my favourite temperature for running) and I didn’t slip on any of the many ice patches, so this was a workout victory.

Sunday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: home for the holidays!
Observations: We flew home to my parents’ place to celebrate Christmas. This meant a lot of sitting on our butts, followed by a lot of delicious BX Cider (that we had shipped to my parents for Christmas), followed by a lot of quality time on our asses basking in the glow of my parents’ epic Christmas decorations. Also, there may have been a few baked goods consumed.

Monday 
Activity: Christmas day strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 minutes
Observations: I cobbled together a pretty good at-home workout if I do say so myself. I found a wooden stool that my parents use to reach tall cupboards and turned it into a make-shift box for step ups. I unearthed my parents’ free weights from the storage room. I even had a festive Christmas tree for a backdrop. It was all coming together nicely…until I realized that working out barefoot on carpet totally messes with my alignment. Suddenly even the basics were causing me pain again. You can’t win ’em all.

Tuesday 
Activity: strength training + arctic walk
Relevant Stats: 40 min. workout + 1.6 km walk
Observations: In a word, it was bloody cold out. I believe it was something to the tune of -30 with the windchill. We put in a valiant effort but a walk of any significant distance just wasn’t happening.  We did, however, make it to the local Goodlife gym, for which we had bought 2 week memberships. The biggest shock: no kettle bells!!!!! Why even have a gym if you aren’t going to have kettle bells? It’s more common than you think, and it annoys the hell out of me every time.

Wednesday 
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 35 min. strength training + holiday clearance shopping
Observations: We made it back to Goodlife for a short workout, which was fine, but the real highlight of the day was heavily discounted Christmas decorations. We scored some new decor for next year’s Christmas for 50% off. However, we were sad to discover that we were too late to score the epically discounted Lindt Candy Cane Lindors. Sadly, they had already been scooped up by more eager post-holiday shoppers.

Thursday 
Activity: semi-planned rest day
Relevant Stats: the longest trip from Calgary to Vancouver ever
Observations: I considered a basement workout at home, but ultimately the timing just didn’t work out. Instead, we spent a total of six hours travelling from Calgary to Vancouver, which seems insane given that the flight time is about an hour and twenty minutes.  First, our cab arrived early, which meant an early arrival to the airport. Then, our flight was delayed by a half hour which turned out to be an hour when we sat on the tarmac waiting to be de-iced. Somehow, despite an hour’s delay we ended up arriving in Vancouver an hour and a half late. I have no idea how that happened and I’m still scratching my head over it.

Friday 
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: It’s safe to say that five days of sugar and carb consumption had caught up with me by today. I woke feeling sluggish and, for lack of a better description, yuck. To absolve me of my sins I forced myself to do prowler chest presses AND prowler supermans, the combination of which will surely leave my upper body immobile tomorrow. Sigh.

Although the holidays are a great time for indulgence, this week has definitely left me feeling firmly committed to continuing with my low-sugar, low-carb lifestyle once New Years is over. Until then, I’ll continue to load my body with all sorts of awful things and deal with the sluggishness. On that positive note, wishing you all a happy weekend to round out 2017.

TWIR #88: sudden and unexpected improvement

Well, after weeks of my SI feeling tenuously on the brink of reinjury, I made sudden and miraculous improvements. I won’t over-analyze. I will simply say a big hell yeah and move along. Here’s what I got up to this week.

Saturday
Activity: outdoor workout!!!!!!!
Relevant Stats: 3.5 km running + plyometric intervals
Observations: OMG, I haven’t had a park workout in WEEKS! It was a sunny day, and warm (for December, at least) so I couldn’t resist the allure of the track. I figured even if I couldn’t run, doing something outside was better than sitting around inside. I was pleased to find that the run to/from the track + the six laps in between intervals did no harm whatsoever to my SI. Progress!  I celebrated with many carbs, 9 days worth of advent calendar chocolate, and a giant bowl of ice cream. Cheat days are my fave.

Sunday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 30 brutal minutes
Observations: After Saturday’s triumph, I expected Sunday to go much better. By the time I made it to the gym, it was almost 4 o’clock. What I discovered was two-fold. 1. That is not my optimal time of day for a workout and 2. As it turns out, roasted pork hock (consumed at the Christmas Market earlier that day) is not good workout fuel. Ugh.

Monday
Activity: planned day off
Relevant Stats: flight to meeting to dinner meeting to post-dinner-meeting-meeting to bed
Observations: I knew there would be minimal activity on Monday and I was right. I had only 10 minutes to myself the entire day and did nothing but sit on my ass, first on planes, then in meeting rooms, then in a restaurant and bar. I believe my distance walked was under 1 km for the whole day. I also was forced to consume sugar and carbs when my breakfast order (ahem, on the private jet) was incorrect and included nothing but fruit, sweetened yogurt, a sugar glazed muffin, a danish and a croissant. I ate the croissant, which I considered to be the lowest sugar option. Then we weren’t even fed lunch (!!!!) before diving into a four hour meeting. My only option was a Nature Valley granola bar. Colour me unimpressed.

Tuesday
Activity: planned day off
Relevant Stats: so much sitting + 60 min. outdoor walk
Observations: After an early morning meeting, we boarded our jet to head home, which meant six hours of nothing but sitting. The second I got home, I was itching to go for a walk outside. Though I should have been working, the fresh air and movement was a total necessity. Even though it was only an hour, I felt immeasurably better afterwards.

Wednesday
Activity: strength training, mostly lower body
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: Do you ever have one of those mornings? I woke up earlier than I needed to and was actually excited for the gym. I left the house a full ten minutes earlier than usual and there was no traffic. Everything was looking golden. And then I arrived downtown and there was not a single, f’ing parking spot to be found anywhere in the vicinity of my gym.  I drove around for over ten minutes, then gave up and parked at my office, which tripled my walk to the gym. Ugh. This cut my workout way short of what I’d planned, but I guess on a positive note I was fueled by my irritation.

Thursday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I made a major miscalculation in Wednesday’s workout. I mistakenly assumed my trainer would torture my arms, since she usually does, so Wednesday I did almost exclusively legs. Naturally, this is the one week my trainer decided to give my arms a vacation and subject me to a  brutal leg workout. By the end I could barely do a single leg deadlift with only 40 pounds. I was dying.

Friday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: After Thursday’s leg-tastrophe, I opted for as much arm action as I could muster, which I assure you is not a lot. The only leg exercises I did were some warm up single leg deadlifts (with low weight) and some prowler pushes. Even that seemed like too much. However, now my arms are also exhausted so instead of just half my body being in pain, my entire body is suffering. Workout fail.

With that, the weekend is here. It is now ten days (!!!!) ’til Christmas and, while I’m in a good place with my shopping, I still have a list of Christmas to-do’s that’s a mile long. I’m excited, though, as I love everything holiday. So let’s get this weekend and all its holiday prepping started! Happy weekend y’all.

TWIR #81: walks and workouts and Fall leaves

It’s been a good week. I’ve felt like my workouts were on point, and we’ve been walking almost every day after work. I have to tell you, the Fall scenery is spectacular this year. I don’t recall so many changing leaves in Vancouver, but there are golden yellow and flaming red and orange trees everywhere. My Instagram feed is full of this autumnal splendor. Here’s what I got up to this week:

Saturday
Activity: strength + running intervals
Relevant Stats: 60 min. (!!!)
Observations:  It was pouring rain, like the pelting, giant rain drops we get out here on the west coast. I had to begrudgingly let go of my track workout and hit the gym instead. I was reminded of how much running on treadmills suck. I don’t think it’s that the treadmill itself is that bad; it’s that they insist on anchoring mini TVs on every single treadmill. I cannot watch a TV that close to my face, and I hate having my entire field of vision blocked by the TV when it’s turned off. Ugh. But, aside from that, the workout was solid and my longest self-directed workout in some time.

Sunday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: this should tell you everything you need to know: road donuts
Observations: We drove up to our new hometown to check on progress of our house and to meet with the developers on Monday. As such, I spent most of the day in car, with a donut in my hand. We did manage a short stroll through town once we got there, but mostly I just ate bad foods and sat on my ass.

Monday
Activity: semi-planned rest day
Relevant Stats: more car time! and a neighborhood walk
Observations: What goes up, must come down. We drove up on Sunday and down on Monday. We finally made our choices about flooring and cabinets and paint. I gather that women are supposed to be more excited about these things, but can I tell you that I have zero interest in picking colours and tiles and laminates, etc.? I mean, I want the place to look good, but I have no skills in interior design. Ugh. Most notable event of the day: the best poppy seed, cheddar and apple scone (sounds like a weird combo but I assure you it’s not) I’ve ever had.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session + after work walk
Relevant Stats: 60 min. session + 60 min. walk
Observations: After two weeks off from training sessions (my trainer was off hiking in Peru–lucky!), I was back to 6 am workouts (yuck). I feel like she took it easy on me. I still had to do prowler presses, but I did not have to do any of the following despised exercises: push ups, pulling stuff behind me, negative pull-ups or front squats. She also told me my form and mobility looked good. Excellent.

Wednesday
Activity: spin+ after work walk
Relevant Stats: 40 min. spin + 60 min. walk
Observations: Determined to get back on the spin train, I opted for a different approach to this spin session: return of the epic hill pyramids. I did a 12 minute hill pyramid (6 min. up/6 min. down) and it helped considerably to make the workout feel shorter. I also think I just had good energy. Some workout days are better than others. What’s most important is that I didn’t want to set the spin bike on fire.

Thursday
Activity: strength training + after work walk
Relevant Stats: 45 min. strength + 50 min. walk
Observations:  This was one of my best solo strength sessions in a while. I loaded extra weight onto the prowler and my back squats, and did negative pull ups AND push ups. I normally subject myself only to one or the other since my arms continue to resist multiple forms of torture in one workout.

Friday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 4o min.
Observations: Hallelujah! Two good spin workouts in one week! It’s as though some new music in my playlists has made a world of difference. Or maybe it’s knowing I’ll be able to get outside this weekend and won’t have to suffer the gym. Either way, it was a solid workout.

After a fine week, we’re gearing up for a (rare) Fall weekend of sunshine. That should mean a return to my track workout (yay!), lots of walking (double yay!) and maybe even some late season golf. This, coupled with the release of Stranger Things’ second season, has me practically giddy! Happy weekend.

TWIR #80 (!!!): Getting Back to It

I just had a moment when I realized that somehow I’ve been doing training weeks in review for 80 weeks. That’s more than a year and a half. It’s cliche to ask where does the time go, but seriously, where does the time go? Okay, that’s enough existential questioning for a Friday afternoon. Let’s get on to workouts. This week was a marked improvement over last week’s shameful cake consumption and relative lack of legitimate workouts. Here’s what I accomplished:

Saturday
Activity: outdoor workout (!) + walking
Relevant Stats: 45 min. mixed running and strength + 15 km walking
Observations: I love, love, love having a legit track by our house. Saturday morning, with only half a cup of coffee in my belly, we hit the local park for a mix of running laps and various strength exercises. Nothing is cooler than doing walking lunges, walking side lunges, hip bridges, push ups and step ups, among other things, while all the other people running or walking the track stare at you. We then walked a collective 12 km running errands and generally taking advantage of a rain-free day. I felt really good about the day’s activities, until we went for a six-course meal with wine pairings at Hawksworth, the richness of which most definitely counteracted whatever benefit we gained through exercise.  The meal was absolutely worth it.

Sunday
Activity: walking
Relevant Stats: 12.6 km
Observations: I keep telling you walking isn’t a real workout and then I keep listing it as my workout. It was too nice a day to waste at the gym, and since I’d already run on Saturday there was no way to do an outdoor workout near the house. Walking was the answer, and trust me when I say it felt like we walked way farther than 12.6 km. At times, it seemed like our walk was never ending, and my legs were tired as hell.

Monday 
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: After being in a hotel gym and out of town for a week and a half, it felt fantastic to be back at my gym.  There were prowler runs and negative pull ups and the triumphant return of kettle bells (seriously, why do hotel gyms never have kettle bells?). It was a good workout day.

Tuesday 
Activity: attempted spin & strength training
Relevant Stats: 20 min. spin + 25 min. strength
Observations: I tried to do just cardio, I really did. The thing that used to happen with me when I ran all the time is happening to me with spin now: I hate it. I get on that bike and I want off immediately. I used to get that way when I ran all the time, and my runs would just get worse and worse until I forced myself to take a break. I need to take a spin break, but with not being able to run it’s tough to find an alternative. At any rate, I opted for more strength training after hopping off the bike despite my sore arms and legs from the day prior. I felt certain I would be in a world of pain on Wednesday.

Wednesday 
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: I know just one day prior I said I needed a break from spin, but I really don’t know what to do with myself for cardio when I can’t run. I hate the elliptical and it never feels like a real workout. I hate the rowing machine and my arms were way too dead to attempt that. That staircase machine terrifies me (I always feel like I’m going to trip and seriously embarrass/injure myself). All that to say I attempted spinning again, and had the same awful result. I could not make myself pedal a second longer than 35 min.

Thursday 
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Two words: prowler presses. Ugh. These kill my arms but I forced myself to do four sets. By the end of this workout, my muscles were very clearly saying to me “NO MORE STRENGTH TRAINING THIS WEEK!”  My arms, in particular, are not pleased with multiple days of strength training. My legs are a little bit more tolerant of it, but even they were kind of like “can we get a break?”.

Friday 
Activity: spin + elliptical
Relevant Stats: 30 min. spin + 10 min. elliptical
Observations: Oh that spin bike. It is really, really killing me these days. I knew within 5 minutes that it was not going to be a good spin session. After half an hour, I threw in the towel and tried to crank the hell out of the resistance and incline on the elliptical to make it a decent workout. Even on the elliptical, my legs were telling me that they were done like dinner. Sometimes I just have to accept that bad workouts will happen.

Now, as I write this, the sun has actually emerged after three days of heavy, disgusting, West Coast rain that has rendered walking outside beyond unattractive.  As much as I love writing, I love being outside in the sunshine more, and I know this sunshine is not going to last for more than a couple of hours. So happy weekend y’all! I’m going for a walk!