TWIR #65: Running on Empty

Well, I have been firing on all cylinders this week out of necessity and my workouts have suffered. Was it better than last week? I guess. But that’s not saying a lot. It is frustrating to experience back to back weeks of poor workouts, and to feel like I’m regressing in both fitness and strength.

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats:  really-not-restful-day-of-housework
Observations: I worked all day and my only reward was a shitty gelato.   Actually, that’s not true. I also had a delicious fish burrito (tasted better than it sounds) and I cooked absolutely, utterly, undeniably perfect salmon. It was really perfect, so much so that I will likely never replicate it.

Sunday
Activity: run
Relevant Stats: 7 km
Observations: Welp. This felt hard. I commend myself for doing at all.  I wasn’t feeling a workout but knew that taking the whole weekend off was a bad call for my emotional well-being, and that a Father’s day BBQ would surely mean eating a lot of crap (and by crap I mean delicious but not the healthiest of treats). Though not a substantial run, this seems to be about my max these days so I guess it wasn’t so bad.

Monday
Activity: cardio warmup + strength
Relevant Stats: 20 min. stairs + 25 min. strength
Observations: Good god, I do not want to do strength training these days. When you regret getting off the stair machine, you know it’s bad. I hate the stair machine. It is one of the most boring pieces of exercise equipment that exists, perhaps second only to the elliptical. It makes me long for the Rogers Arena staircase that was so near my old home. Sigh. At any rate, the second I started doing strength work I wanted to stop. I did only three sets of anything, and barely used any weight and I could not wait to get to a cumulative total of 45 minutes of exercise because that felt at least reasonably respectable.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: My shoulders were not happy with anything this entire workout. Stuff I’ve been doing for ages felt impossible. My lower back kept getting tight in any exercise involving carrying weights above my head. It was the kind of workout that makes you want to throw in the towel. Then I had to kill three hours downtown,and pay $9 to park for an interview. All I wanted was to go home and take a nap, but those plans were immediately foiled by a pressing need to run around like a chicken with my head cut off for four hours straight. Thankfully there was Dairy Queen. My boyfriend knows how to soothe my anxiety and squelch my grumpiness.

Wednesday
Activity: abby grind (“hike”)
Relevant Stats: 4 km, 400 m elevation gain
Observations: I don’t think my hamstrings have ever felt tired when I’ve hiked, but they did during this hike. While it’s fascinating to pay attention to the ever-changing landscape of my muscular responses, I’m sort of over it right now. I’d like a workout that just feels good, please.

Thursday
Activity: run
Relevant Stats: 43 min.
Observations:  This run was even worse than Monday’s. Oh, the walking breaks were plentiful. 43 minutes seems like a decent amount of running time but I am embarrassed to admit the meagre distance. Most days I am quite kind and accepting of my current running fitness, but other days I am like a hyper-critical record stuck on repeat, “I can’t believe how slow I am now.” It’s not helpful.

Friday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: it’s not just laziness
Observations: We are hitting the road today and that means there’s no time for a proper workout. Okay, that’s a lie. But I ran yesterday and this body is not ready for back to back running days, and there is no time to fit in a drive to the gym, a workout and the drive back. If you ever need an excuse for bailing on a workout, you know where to find me. I will pack workout gear under the guise that I will actually work out this weekend when, in reality, I will probably drink a lot of wine and eat a lot of ice cream instead.

Though I’m generally unhappy with my body this week, I do suspect that stress is playing a part in my recent downturn in energy. I’m optimistic that answers and decisions over the next week or so will lead to a rebound in energy.  Fingers crossed. Now happy Friday! Go and get yourself a glass of wine (or an alternative vice of your choice).

This has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but cute baby animals always make me feel better so it felt like the right way to close off the week.

TWIR #64: the week of exhaustion

I have no explanation for how tired I’ve felt this week. I stopped taking allergy meds late last week, and yet for the better part of the week I continued to feel beyond exhausted. I had little desire to work out, and napped frequently. If this is still related to seasonal allergies, may I be the first to say that pollen can kiss my ass.

Saturday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I think this may have been my only good workout the entire week. I remember being tired, but not so much so that I didn’t force myself to do negative pull ups on my own. That’s saying a lot.

Sunday
Activity: planned rest day + putting green
Relevant Stats: amazing 30+ foot putt!
Observations: No, I’m not attempting to claim that going to the putting green is exercise. It is not. I merely wanted to brag about my amazing long putt. Seriously, it was beautiful. It was a fluke, of course, but beautiful nonetheless.

Monday
Activity: yoga
Relevant Stats: 90 min.
Observations: I wrote about this on Monday, but my body simply did not want to do anything remotely intense.  I’d forgotten just how difficult yoga is when you lack any semblance of flexibility.  I wished desperately that I had a legit yoga block. Instead, I had to use various makeshift items like books, or a small upturned basket, or a tin box. Resourcefulness at its best. At the end of the day, my legs felt the best (i.e. least tense and stiff) that they’ve felt in ages, so I think it was the right call.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I sort of thought I’d bounce back from yoga day and be ready for intensity. Sadly, this was not the case.  The early morning wake up call on Tuesdays is always rough, but it felt even rougher this week. My SI and lower back were also causing me issues. My trainer has noticed that my right shoulder isn’t functioning properly again, which is causing me to strain my SI with certain types of motions. Good grief. Will my body ever function properly? I rounded out my day with not one but two naps. I told you I was tired this week.

Wednesday
Activity: mostly an unplanned rest day with some half-assed yoga
Relevant Stats: 30 min. yoga
Observations: Honestly, I was going to do nothing on Wednesday. I spent most of the day dreading any kind of workout. After popping out to run an errand (at 3:00 in the afternoon, no less), I had a brief surge in energy and contemplated a run. By the time I got home, the moment had passed and I thought yoga instead. My heart and body were not in it and I abandoned course after a pretty weak 30 minutes.

Thursday
Activity: cardio warmup + strength training
Relevant Stats: 10 min. stairs + 50 min. strength
Observations:  It took everything, and I mean everything, to get me to the gym. I had no interest in going. Once again, an early morning trip into the city had left me tired and unmotivated. I forced myself to the gym and somehow managed to stick it for an hour. If I’m honest, it wasn’t a great workout. I wasn’t drenched in sweat by the end, so there was little pushing it. Oh, also, there may have been another afternoon nap. WTF.

Friday
Activity: run
Relevant Stats: 7.5 km (!)
Observations: I expected today’s run to be short-lived and painful so I meant most of the morning dreading it. Sometimes the universe hands you a most unexpected good run, and today was that day. All things considered (tiredness, still-not-so-great-SI, mental state, etc.), it felt pretty good and I was able to run a reasonable distance (for me these days).  I do enjoy when my workout week ends on a high note.

There is no hiding the fact that this was a piss poor week for workouts. I can only hope that whatever crippling source of exhaustion struck me this week disappears as quickly as it came. If it is just allergies, all I have to say is:

Pollen, if I’m unfairly blaming you for my tiredness, I’m sorry. But chances are, it’s you.

Monday Musings: on listening to your body

Today, my body felt sluggish and tired. My muscles are often sore these days as I try to incorporate more strength training, with more weight and increased complexity.  Some days, I just don’t feel like I have it in me to work out. Today was one of those days.  I contemplated taking an extra rest day for recovery, but something didn’t feel quite right about that decision either.

When I really stopped to listen to what my body was saying, it wasn’t saying that it needed a day off. It was saying ‘I don’t want to run’. It was saying ‘I don’t want to grind it out at the gym’.  But it was also saying ‘I still want to move today’ just not at any level of intensity. The first thing that usually comes to mind for me is taking a long walk, but today my mind was screaming ‘yoga!’.

For many, this would be a perfectly natural choice, but I haven’t done yoga in well over five years. In fact, I have never really practiced yoga in a meaningful way. I’ve done my own thing, without instruction, and mostly at times of my life when I was experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. In those situations, I found yoga to be surprisingly calming. However, as soon as I found myself in a more balanced headspace, I’d inevitably abandon yoga in favour of more intense workouts.

For whatever reason, and though I don’t consider myself highly anxious nor stressed right now, yoga felt like the only suitable option for me today. And for once I found it easy to squash the inner voices that usually tell me to run anyway, to get a better workout in, to push through the muscle discomfort. I am generally a fan of this pushing through the discomfort, but I also believe that sometimes our bodies are telling us to slow down for a reason.

What I can tell you is that my body was undoubtedly craving a gentler form of motion today, not that yoga movements are easy for me, mind you.  I have the flexibility of a 60-year old. Actually, scrap that, I’ve known some supremely flexible 60-year olds. I have the flexibility of an 80-year old.  My balance has suffered tremendously since my injury. I struggle to quiet my mind.  I was ready for all of that today. When my flexibility interfered with completing the most challenging variations of movements, I was kind to myself and stuck to the basic or modified versions. When my balance wavered, I avoided getting frustrated with myself and simply started over until I was in balance again. When focusing on my breathing, my mind, quite miraculously, was able to flush my running hamster wheel of thoughts right down the drain. I achieved inner quiet and felt completely rejuvenated.

Afterwards, my body felt noticeably less tense, my muscles loose, and my mind calm.  Even if these feelings turned out to be short-lived, what I had was certainty: listening to my body worked today.  I find it incredibly tempting, and actually consider it a point of personal pride, to force myself to work out hard even when I’m tired or sore or just plain don’t feel like it. In doing so, I sometimes bulldoze right over what my body is telling me.  I have to remember that sometimes those inner voices are telling me to slow down for a reason. I have to remind myself that exercise comes in many forms, not all of which leave your body feeling exhausted, or that an extra day off is not always a sign of laziness or lack of willpower.  It sounds so obvious, and yet I am highly experienced at ignoring what my body is telling me. Today has been an excellent reminder that listening deeply and letting go of self-imposed expectations is sometimes the best course of action.

TWIR # 63: SI, allergies and errands, oh my!

Where did this week go? It’s something I’ve rarely wondered since I left my last job. I mean, when you’re able to take a lengthy work hiatus, I think it’s poor form to complain about time flying by. But I’m gonna do it anyways. This week felt short!  I spent most of it feeling like crap care of allergies and supposedly non-drowsy allergy medication, but I also felt like I was constantly either running from thing to thing or trying to get a whole bunch of life crap in order for some maybe-big-changes-that-I’m-not-ready-to-talk-about-yet-thank-you-very-much.  Translation: I’m glad it’s Friday. Let’s take a look at this week in workouts:

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: roadside bear sightings: one
Observations: We took a quick trip up to the Okanagan, complete with wildlife sightings. My main goal on Saturday was to hit Tickleberry’s for ice cream and fudge on the way to our destination. Sadly, I forgot that summer season is upon us, which turns this roadside ice cream stand into a hellish tourist trap. The lines were insane. I love me some ice cream and fudge, but not enough to wait for half an hour.  I walked away empty handed and sad. Don’t feel too sorry for me, though, there may have Dairy Queen later that afternoon. Even though it felt like sloppy seconds, it was still pretty damn tasty.

Sunday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: sedentary, sedentary, sedentary
Observations: Well, Sunday was a day of very little motion. Aside from walking to and from restaurants and a seemingly never-ending mission to find healthy road snacks, I basically did nothing active. I sat in a car, then got home and sat on the couch. It was laziness at its finest and I regret nothing.

Monday
Activity: hike
Relevant Stats: 11 km, 400 m elevation gain
Observations: Once again, a formerly easy hike felt like my own personal Everest. I was dying on the way up. My legs were tired, my lungs couldn’t get enough air. I wanted to turn around.  And then it all went to hell. Whatever allergens have been unleashed lately attacked me and I turned into a congested, snotty, sneezing disaster. Damn you, nature.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I barely got my ass out of bed for this session. Let’s just say that 5:45 am felt particularly awful while on allergy meds. Though the workout was still tough, my trainer gave me the most wonderful gift: I did not have to do negative pull ups or push ups.  She told me at most I’d get that once a month. I’ll take it! Just don’t tell her that I sort of missed having them as part of my workout…

Wednesday
Activity: hike
Relevant Stats: 4.4 km, 400 m elevation gain
Observations: I braved the pollen and hit the trails for a short and steep jaunt up the Abby Grind. My energy felt moderately better than on Monday’s hike, though my legs still felt like they were trying to power through quicksand. On top of that, my SI was not loving this hike. By the time late afternoon rolled around, my lower back had stiffened up nicely and my SI was feeling some sharp pains with certain motions. Ugh.

Thursday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 80 min.
Observations: In efforts to calm my SI, I focused on strength and stability. it seemed to help. I had a great strength workout, and even forced myself to do negative pull ups and push ups on my own. In hindsight, it was probably my trainer’s secret goal to make me feel so guilty about not having to do either exercise in our session that I would feel compelled to do them on my own. She’s a crafty one.

Friday
Activity: run + epic cleaning
Relevant Stats: 6 km test run + 3.5 hours of deep cleaning mode (yuck)
Observations: I’m calling today a test run because my SI hasn’t been happy with me the last week but it’s so off and on that I wasn’t sure if running would affect it.  The good news is that running felt fine, aside from it being brutally hard after yet another week a half without running. The bad news is the crouching over shower enclosures and scrubbing the crap out of them was not so kind on my SI. You win some, you lose some. Also, yes I know that cleaning isn’t really a workout, but I’m going to own it today because that scrubbing was hard work and lugging our giant vacuum up and down multiple flights of stairs also sucks.

At this point, I want to say a big TGIF and dive  into a bottle of wine. I feel it’s worth noting I won’t drink the entire bottle myself.  I could, mind you, but I won’t.  All in all, and pardon the language, this week gets a big:

I mean, any excuse to use a picture of an alpaca, right?

TWIR #62: these weak arms will be the death of me

Welp. After nearly four months of carefree, injury-less living, I tweaked my SI this week. It was bound to happen, I suppose. Still, I was irritated by it.  I’m not in a lot of pain this time around. It’s really only sharp and random movements that are causing aggravation and even that’s pretty minor.  Plus, it was raining all week so I had little desire to hike or run anyway. Look at me, finding silver linings.  Let’s bring the rambling to an end and see what I got up to this week:

Saturday
Activity: hike
Relevant Stats: 12 km
Observations:  Sunshine! Warmth! And on a WEEKEND (!!!)…uh, not that every day isn’t a weekend for me. I got up early and hit the local mountains for a relatively easy jaunt on the trails, combining a few partial trails for a total of 12k. My early start allowed me to escape nature before it got hella hot. By mid-afternoon, we were on the lookout for a way to escape the heat, so we hopped in the car and headed to our campsite, where we swam for a while before walking way, way, way too much and attempting to play tennis against a wall with a wiffle ball (not easy). My legs were done by night’s end. Thankfully roasted hot dogs and wine eased the pain.

Sunday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: delicious gelato discovered
Observations: On the way back from the campsite, we took a swing into White Rock for an ocean front stroll and gelato. I remember nothing else from the day because good gelato trumps everything.

Monday
Activity: hike
Relevant Stats: 11 km
Observations: I thought a day off would refresh my legs, but it did not. I hiked a trail I’ve done a million times and one that’s pretty damn easy, if I do say so myself. It killed me. My legs felt dead and I was literally dripping sweat (okay, it was also really warm out). Clearly, at my current fitness level, three hikes in four days, no matter how easy, is too much.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 45 min. legit workout/15 min. sad, pitiful workout
Observations:  This is when my weak arms and shoulders let me down. After sets of hanging exercises, negative pull ups and full tricep push ups, my arms were done like dinner. Then we, and by “we” I mean my trainer, upped the weights on our deadlifts. It turned out to be a bad combo.  My tired arms and shoulders lost their form and I tweaked my SI. I seriously wonder at what point my arms will stop feeling like jello from activities that seem like they should feel easier over time. I would like it to be soon.

Wednesday
Activity: cardio warmup + strength
Relevant Stats: 15 min. stairs + 60 min. strength
Observations: Even though my SI tweak was minor, running was out of the question for the rest of the week. It was back to basics instead. My goal was to focus on form, reduce the weight load, and get in a good strength workout. It seems to be the cure-all for my temperamental SI and, sure enough, I felt better after my workout.

Thursday
Activity: cardio warmup + strength
Relevant Stats: 15 min. stairs + 60 min. strength
Observations: Another day of cautionary strength training was on the menu. This time around, I started to increase my weights again and incorporated more stability-focused, single-leg exercises, all completed sans SI aggravation. Win! I rewarded myself with extra peanut butter M & Ms, because I firmly believe that any success, no matter how small, should be rewarded with fat and sugar. This is also why I need to work out on the regular. Sigh.

Friday
Activity: spin + strength
Relevant Stats: 30 min. spin + 30 min. strength
Observations: Good God, I haven’t spun in ages and I forgot how hard it can be. Then, in efforts to make negative pull ups not feel like death, I forced myself to do some on my own. They were even less enjoyable at the gym where I’m certain anyone around me was horrified by my face progressing from pale to red to purple care of my excessive upper body exertion.  I have to keep believing that these will get easier one day…

Now that I’ve survived the week (relatively) unscathed, it’s time to enjoy the return of the sunshine, a couple days of arm recovery (because, seriously, my arms are dead), and a glass of wine or two (or five). Happy weekend!

Monday Musings: the long and winding road

We have had an absolutely amazing couple of weeks weather-wise. For me, any time the sun shines for days on end, I start to feel guilty at the thought of staying indoors or working out at the gym. The trails begin calling to me. Once I answer their call, once I taste that first trail of the season where there is actually a view, where the air’s aroma is that perfect mix of dry pine needles and all the greens of Spring, where the tree canopy offers just the right amount of shade from what’s starting to become a sweltering sun, I am a goner for the rest of the season. I’ll see you on the trails.

This is the state I’ve found myself in these last couple of weeks.   I want to hike. I crave the terrain, the search for ever-higher viewpoints, the familiar rhythm of my steps up steep slopes. The only problem is that my body hasn’t caught up with my mind. Instead, my body is like ‘holy f#^@, girl, you are way too outta shape for this!”

In recent years, a large part of my identity rested on being ‘the hiker girl’. I loved that I was fast on the trail, that I could cover so much ground in a day, that I rarely felt that even the steepest of trails were all that difficult. Now, trails that I would have deemed too easy to even warrant my time leave my lungs winded and my legs sore and exhausted.  In the last four days, I’ve hiked three times, a combined total of 32 km on easy to moderate trails. That was often a one-day distance tally for me and, even spread out over three days, it has left me sluggish and ready for a break. I have used this word before, but ‘humbling’ is the best word I can think to describe it.

No matter how much I want to jump right back into the types of trails I’ve been accustomed to, I won’t be able to do so right away…at least not without accepting that it will be slower, feel harder and, because of this, lead to some frustration. It doesn’t feel good to be in the position where things that were once so easy and natural feel impossibly hard again. The road to injury recovery truly is long. It has highs, it has lows, and it involves many, many (many) rough patches. Even though I am moving forward, ever-so-slowly regaining my hiking mojo, it often feels like two steps back (bonus points for anyone who has that classic Paula Abdul song stuck in their head right now…and I’m sorry).

Every time I push myself on more challenging, steeper and longer trails, it feels like I am right back at square one. I have been here before, though, a decade ago when I took up hiking and made it a mainstay in my life. I have just conveniently forgotten what it felt like to work hard to gain trail legs, growing complacent as my fitness plateaued at a high level. If I pause and reflect on the past, I know that what I’m going through now is just a part of the process, and that every journey has its valleys and its peaks. I’m just looking forward to getting back to one of those peaks some time soon. Until then, I will find solace in the fact that the tired legs and overly laboured breathing are exactly what I need to get me there.

TWIR #61: sunshine!

Omg, Spring has finally arrived in my neck of the woods. It has been warm. There has been sunshine. I know it’s banal to talk about the weather, but seriously we’ve had the wettest, greyest, most thoroughly depressing Fall/Winter season so this is news worth celebrating. What about my workouts, you ask? Well, they’ve been okay too:

Saturday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 65 min (I think?)
Observations: To be perfectly honest, I forgot to make note of my workouts throughout the week and I cannot recall exactly what I did. It’s possible there was a pre-strength-training cardio component.  I remember the important things from Saturday, though, things like going for a walk through the old ‘hood with my friends and their little ones, and going for fish n’ chips at the beach. Doesn’t that sound more fun than details of my workout?

Sunday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: 8 km river walk with patio refueling break
Observations: There’s this wonderful trail near our place where we can walk 4 km in one direction, encounter a charming little heritage town, and then walk 4 km back to our car. What’s wonderful is that little town half way along the trail has all manner of sins to encourage you to stop. There’s a delightful bakery, there’s a craft brewery, and there’s a riverfront pub with a patio. We opted for cider (well, for me) and nachos on the patio. Now, there’s no real need for refueling after 4 km of leisurely walking, but…dammit, it was sunny and sunshine calls for patios.

Monday
Activity: semi-planned rest day
Relevant Stats: pitch & putt + driving range
Observations: I contemplated an actual workout after our morning round of pitch & putt but we were just having too much fun. I know that’s a pretty flimsy excuse and I don’t care.  Instead, we walked to the driving range, hit some balls, and chilled out on the patio with some beer and appies. Seriously, it hasn’t been sunny in what feels like months. There was no sense wasting perfectly good long weekend patio weather.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session + short cardio
Relevant Stats: 60 min. training + 20 min. spin
Observations: I have a love/hate relationship with my trainer. I dread our sessions because I never know what new cruelty she will unleash on me, but I also love seeing the gains. This week’s torture was a new variation on prior hanging exercises, wherein I was told to slowly lower myself from above the bars to an active hang over the course of 30 seconds. Ugh.

Wednesday
Activity: Run
Relevant Stats: 8.75 km!
Observations: Finally! A decent run.  It started off rocky, but by the time I got onto the farm country road, I was feeling like if I just kept my pace slow and steady, I might just have a good run. I was right. I did my full “farm loop” as I like to call it, and even survived the final hill, which really isn’t that big a hill but feels big these days. I did forget to stretch upon my return, though, which led to some seriously tight hamstrings by evening.

Thursday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 70 min.
Observations:  Too lazy to drive to a trailhead for a hike, I opted to get my strength on. I upped some of my weights for some extra challenge…well, and because my gym sucks and bars and weights mysteriously go missing all the time. You never know what equipment you’ll have access to. I cannot wait to find a new gym when my membership expires.  I also decided to keep my phone on me all day to see how many steps I take just doing random house work throughout the day. Though I occasionally forgot to put my phone in my pocket, it was interesting to see that I walked just shy of 2 km just doing housework!

Friday
Activity: hike
Relevant Stats: 8 km + bonus km when I decided to see if the logging road was faster than the bottom part of the trail. Not only was it not faster, it led to a dead end. Ugh.
Observations: Finally, I got off my lazy ass and drove to a trail. It turns out my recent lack of motivation to drive to trailheads may not have been pure laziness.  Prior to my car’s recent $2000 service, any time I drove the highway for extended periods I felt like my engine might explode at any second.  As it turns out, I should have been more worried about my wheels suddenly flying off and/or losing total control of the vehicle, because since the ball joints and struts and something else related to that was fixed highway driving feels fine. Yay to driving safely to more hikes!  But enough about driving. As for the hike, it was both painful and lovely in the way that only happens when you’re out of shape for hiking. To be honest, I didn’t want to keep going past the 2km point, but I kept bargaining with myself (“I’ll just walk another few hundred metres and see how I feel”) and somehow made it to the top. I was dreaming of beer the entire time.

Today’s hike has also confirmed that, though my legs are just as strong (if not stronger) than in the past, my hiking fitness is way, way off. Today’s trail is one I used to hike all the time as an easy maintenance hike. I use to fly up the trail whereas today I felt like I was moving at a snail’s pace.  Sigh. Still, nothing is going to get me down because this has been a good week of workouts and I have an entire weekend of sunshine ahead of me. And somewhere (like inside my fridge), a bottle of rose is calling me.