Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Work it Hard: Make it Work

Crickets.... that's what I would have heard as I sat on my bike in front of an empty room today.

Yup. No one was there for class tonight.

Talk about a bummer. And I'm thinking, I spent time putting a kick-a$$ playlist together for WHAT?To turn up the speakers and work out by myself, apparently.


No matter. I loved tonight's playlist and I'm going to try really hard not to dwell because, after all, it's 2 days after Christmas and a lot of people are still in the throes of holiday travel. I guess I just kind of wish I'd known that no one planned on being there so I could have gotten my workout in much earlier in the day.

So I'll save my playlist post for next week. For now, I just want to say a word or two about a tradition a good number of us will take part in next week.

We're on the doorstep of 2012 and with that will come the usual and expected New Years Resolution. I have heard a good number of vague, half-assed, but also determined and out-right awesome resolutions from people. If there was one things I could tell anyone and everyone making a resolution this year it would be this: Instead of picking a lofty goal like working out 14 hours a week or losing 100 lbs by May, go for something more realistic and tangible. Ask yourself a few key questions to gauge your commitment level and, ultimately, how you want to feel a year from now. Is it really just a jean size you're striving for, or can you wrap your mind around setting a goal that will impact every aspect of your life? Just think, what if we replaced resolutions like "I will lose weight/get skinny/look hot this year" with goals like, "I will get fit/feel strong/increase my life expectancy"?

Because in the end, our time spent in the gym, on the road, on the field or in the water shouldn't only be about booties and six packs; we need to be focused on the bigger picture which is our bodies, and how we can work them and hold them up to the highest standard to which they can and should be tested. We are strong and were created to work. If we make our bodies work, they will in turn work for us, keeping us alive and well to inspire generations to come to.

What do you want to change/improve that can't be measured with a number?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

This is how we do it...

I'm not one for a holiday steeped in tradition. If we go somewhere different or see different people every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'm totally cool with that. We're not religious but I've always enjoyed evergreens and twinkling lights. I still call it Christmas to keep it simple, but in my heart it's more like Yule. This year is the 2nd in a row that we've put up a tree in our humble little town house I have to say, I kinda like this being home for the holidays thing.

We're just having a few relatives over, making a little more food than we could all reasonably consume, and enjoying a relaxing weekend + a little extra (aka The Wrapping Paper Explosion). I made a huge batch of spaghetti with some homemade "fire roasted" marinara for the vegetarians, and the same sauce as a meaty version with beef and Italian sausage for us carnivores. It was like carb loading for a race, even if tomorrow the only racing we'll be doing is from the kitchen to the living room to retrieve and devour treats, or after our 2-year-old after she receives her first bike.

A few things about this Christmas:

I made stuff from scratch. Bread. Sweets. Sauces. Garlic butter (minus the butter- I did not milk a cow then sit around shaking a jar of milk solids for an hour to make it myself).
My Great-Grandmother's applesauce nut bread. I'd share the recipe but I haven't cleared it yet with the family whether I'm allowed to.
Mint brownie cake pops. Not from Starbucks. From my kitchen.

I listened to Christmas music. A lot. I had the Indie Christmas station playing on Pandora while cooking in the kitchen. I listened to Christmas classics while wrapping presents. And I already shared my Christmas playlist.

Through my patient silence about our scraggly fake tree, I got my husband to concede to putting up a real one.

Bad Camera. Awesome Tree.

I am not one for keeping up with the Jones' nor would I ever attempt to try. Although I don't know who this creepy person is who gets excited about lights and carols, it's kinda fun and for better or for worse (no matter how loudly my husband rolls his eyes) I think she'll be back again next year.

Merry Christmas!
Happy Yule!
Joyous Chanuka, Kwanza, and Winter Solstice!

And a wonderful, festive, safe and exciting New Year!

What old traditions have stayed with your family, year after year?
What new traditions have you begun with your family?
What is your favorite thing about the holidays?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday Night Spin- Happy Holidays!

It's been a while since I've posted a new playlist and while I'm out of town and not teaching tonight, this is the list I put together for last week. In an effort to be somewhat inclusive, there is a Hanukkah song, but for the most part I found some great twists on Christmas classics. Don't worry, there's no Marriah Carey (although she IS looking awesome these days, I must admit). Most Christmas songs are only a couple minutes long, though, so I had to keep some of my usual songs in there for a few different drills. And there is such a thing as too many jingle bells.

If you don't want to work out to any of these songs, at least add them to your party shuffle for your holiday festivities. I mean, "Punk Rawk Christmas" by MXPX? How could you NOT play that for Grandma and Grandpa??

Festivus For the Rest of Us Spin:
1. warm up, flat road, alternate left and right leg - "Deck the Halls" Manheim Steamroller
2. 3 position warm up continued, add a gear, alternate pos. 1, 2, and 3 every 30s. - "Gettin in the Mood (for Christmas)" Brian Setzer Orchestra
3. jumps, 8/4/2 count - "Jump" Flo Rida ft. Nelly Furtado
4. begin 1st climb, medium resistance, sit and climb with standing bursts in pos. 3 - "Siberian Sleigh Ride" Trans-Siberian Orchestra
5. 3 position climb, add a gear in pos. 3 for each chorus and leave it on when you sit until you can't add any more while pedaling smoothly - "Ready to Go" Republica
6. flat recovery - "The Dreidel Song" Sister Hazel
7. alternate 30s. running, 30s. recovery, running at 80-85%, add a gear if needed for control - "Punk Rawk Christmas" MXPX
8. medium resistance, stand and climb in pos. 3 for the verse then sit and run on a flat road each time the music picks up - "Seven Nation Army" White Stripes
9. seated endurance climb, add a gear from medium resistance, maintain 70% effort (aching, not gasping for breath) - "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" U2
10. hovers, light to medium resistance, hover on each chorus just barely grazing the saddle (try to keep a flat back and limit bouncing) - "Santa Drives a Hot Rod"
11. heavy climb, add it in over 30s. intervals 'til you have to stand, add more 'til you're as steep as you can get and still pedal smoothly - "Christmas/ Sarajevo 12/24" Trans-Siberian Orchestra
12. downclimb, back off the resistance 2-3 gears (still hard but not steep), pos. 1 for the verse, 2 for the bridge, out to 3 taking OFF a gear and pick up the pace for the chorus, repeat - "The Dog Days are Over" Florence and the Machine
13. runs on a light hill, short heavy climb in the middle (add it in, max out to a steep climb, then gradually take it back off for the last standing run) - "Lancaster Gate" Enter the Haggis
14. flat n' fast, run it out to the end, 85-90% - "All I Want for Christmas is You (And Maybe You)" Xmas Massacre
15 + 16. flat recovery, followed by no resistance, followed by stretches - "Somewhere Only We Know" Keane - "Be Like That" 3 Doors Down

Merry Spinning!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How To Not Kill Someone and Other Important Social Skills

Yesterday, I turned into a bitch.

Well I've always been one. But the level of bitchiness that rears its ghastly, sleep-deprived and under-caffeinated head is usually kept under some amount of control.

Essentially, I've only run 6 miles since the half marathon, and my foot hurt like a mofo afterwards, leading me to decide to stay off the pavement and commit to a week or two of bike and elliptical only. Well 2 days ago it hit 62 degrees. Yesterday, 68. My foot has still been acting up from work so I was really sour about the weather beckoning me to venture outdoors when running still seemed like a bad idea.

But when the thermostat hit 72 today, enough was enough and I set out with the daughter in tow; my foot taped up tight and a 1.5X dose of ibuprofen in my system. I am happy to report that not only was the short 3.5-mile jaunt around Piedmont Park relatively pain-free, but Alexis got her wiggles out on the playground afterward and napped like a champ. So I guess I can say that Mission: Post- Undiagnosed but Probable Injury Run was a success. And I feel a million times better.

Pre-run Jen: Angry, spitting fire, wanting to chuck drinks and half-eaten food at rude customers.

Post-run Jen: Happy, refreshed, able to face the world without doing anything that might lead to an arrest.

I'm thinking I might try another 3-4 miles tomorrow to preemptively improve my attitude before work has a chance to ruin it. More on that another time... all I'll say is that holiday cheer does not seem to spead to that little line where people are supposed to leave a tip. In fact, I'm seeing worse tips than I've seen all year. I want to wear a button that says, "Excuse me, but I'm trying to afford gifts for everyone on my list, too."

Switching gears.

Food. It's a common talking point this time of year. We all eat it. We tend to eat more of it between the last Thursday of November and the first of January. Combine the increased caloric intake with the lower mileage many of us face thanks to either winding down from marathon season or commitments take us away from our usual routines, and you're quickly in a surplus of consumed energy that can lead to added pounds. Since we all want extra pounds as much as a kid wants to find coal in his stocking, it's important to keep our eating habits in check. No need to go on an extreme diet; just make sure you've got apples within closer reach than the sugar cookies.

Since I've been laying off the miles (still spinning away furiously, but it's just not the same) and spending a lot more time in Target than the gym, I want to try to get back to fulfilling my daily fruit and veggie requirement. Not an easy feat, but I've found ways to make it a bit more bearable:

yes, those are Goldfish
Normally, after a workout I only want to eat salt and carbs in one combination or another. Today, I decided to make a salad. But I don't just eat greens, so I added grape tomatoes, granny smith apples, golden raisins, pistachios and Goldfish (yummier than a plain old croutons). It's dressed with Trader Joe's Low Fat Parmesan Ranch. Haven't put Goldfish on a salad before? Try it. You're welcome :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How a REAL Real Housewife of Atlanta does Xmas

Ah, that blissful time of year when everything is decked in red and green, bells chime and tinsel rustles in the breeze, all of your favorite songs are playing on every audio system everywhere you go, and lights twinkle from every tree, bush, awning and window (hopefully they're LED lights).

Hahahaha, yeah, it's that time again, folks. Put on your helmets and guard your loins because it's Christmas and if you truly wish to tackle this holiday with a shred of sanity left over, you had better be prepared.

There are a number of seasonal survival guides out there, from how to smile politely through eight nights of receiving socks and calculators to the most tactful way to handle Aunt Janice when she gets belligerent after 5 too many egg nogs. There are gift-giving guides, decorating tips, and of course - best of all - Pinterest.com (I signed up for an invite, by the way, and I still haven't gotten one, *harumph*).

I have my own set of tips and secrets that I think would be valuable to anyone with multiple children and/or animals and no hired help - in other words, the 99%.

1.) K.I.S.S. You know what that means. Every time I've orchestrated an elaborate menu with multiple courses and flavors to suite different palates and dietary preferences, I wind up with leftovers coming out my ears. If you're keeping your celebration to just family, limit yourself to 1 cooked appetizer and 2 "cold" snacks (think crackers and cheese, veggies and hummus), 1 cooked entree with 2 sides (cooked vegetables and rolls work for me, and a purchased dessert. Of course, if you really love to make dessert, just swap out that one prepared dish for another to save yourself some time, effort, and energy.

2.) Start early. Not just with shopping, but with cleaning. I mean, if you care. Maybe you don't and that's fine too, but I have a sister-in-law who's terribly allergic to cats so I need to be pretty detail-oriented. A few weeks ahead of time, start focusing on areas you don't have to clean too often, but require attention once in a while. Declutter that dump spot where you toss your junk mail (we all have one), wipe down the baseboards to pick up anything your vacuum misses, and maybe move furniture to get to areas you typically ignore (like under the sofa). Unless you live in a farm, it's unlikely these spots will get so dirty that you'll have to do them again before your guests arrive, so knocking them out a couple weeks ahead of time will help you focus on bigger cleaning tasks.

3.) If you don't notice it in someone else's house, don't worry about it in yours. What that means is that if you've ever been to a friend's or relative's house and they said, "Oh, please excuse the mess," and you find yourself looking around and thinking, What mess? then know that your house does not need to be Pottery Barn catalog material. Likewise, if you walk into a place and you immediately notice grubby hand prints on the wall or a peculiar funk in the air, make sure you pay attention to those details in your own abode. I'm not in the business of trying to impress anyone, but I don't want my guests to worry that we don't do laundry or wash our hands.

4.) Just do you. I say this a lot when it comes to running and working out, but it applies to this time of year as well. Every TV show, movie, magazine and store will drill it into your subconscious that you will never be prepared. There are so many decorations! The Jones are hosting a fondue holiday party and you should, too! Just one more lawn ornament! WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU DON'T HAVE CHRISTMAS THEMED BATHMATS?! ARE YOU STUPID?!

Don't buy into it. Just because you did things a certain way growing up or you worry that the neighbors are doing more for the holiday than you are doesn't mean you should succumb to the pressure of doing things exactly the same way yourself. Develop you own traditions and rituals. Forgo some others. Christmas is already a month long, you don't need to add to the stress by setting unrealistic expectations on yourself.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Insult from Injury

The dreaded post-race recovery run- we all know it's something that just has to be done. So on Saturday I went kicking and screaming limping and croaking down to the flat rail trail near my in-laws' house to do an easy few miles with my husband. My husband came and it took about .3 miles for me to piss him off.

My legs were warming up and we were on just the slightest hint of a downhill so my legs were like, "OK, we're running now," and I inadvertently started to speed up. My husband grabs my arm and gives me a gentle pull back to him. I say, "Oops, sorry," and something like "that's why it's good I'm not running alone today- because I'd go too far, too fast and hurt myself." Boom. Insulted. The rest of the run was completed in silence.

I waited 8 hours and a nap (for him, not me) to hash out what had upset him so. I mean, I know guys' egos are fragile, but come. on.

Well I guess it was humbling enough that even with a cough and raging plantar fasciitis that I was still holding myself back while running with him, so to speak, but that's not to say that if I was running normally he couldn't keep up. But then I had to say something about it, which is what really pissed him off. He felt like I was telling him, in so many words, that he slows me down.

So I tried to explain things to him in terms he could understand.

For starters, I think we ALL have a tendency to get sucked into comparing ourselves to others. The gym and the track can be the hardest places to keep from falling into that black hole of competition, worry, or self-doubt. My husband's the competitor. He sees a guy bench 265, and he thinks, "I should be able to do that, too." In fact, I'm pretty sure I am too. "Paula Radcliff can run a 7:38 pace when 7 months pregnant. I should at least be able to do that for 13.1 without a human growing inside of me."

The trouble with being competitive is that if you take it beyond just trying to outdo yourself, you'll never be satisfied with your performance, even if you're doing the most you can at a given moment. This is why for certain drills, I tell my class not to glance at the person riding next to them to see how fast they're pedaling or how high their resistance is. I tell them that each ride is their own ride, and if they're sweating, aching, and pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones, then they are doing exactly what they need to be doing.

Moving on to self-doubt; if you constantly compare yourself to others and allow yourself to think things like, "I'll never move that fast," or "I'll never lift that much," you will run the risk of limiting yourself because you're afraid you won't succeed. You don't want to drive yourself based on the performance of others to the point that you'll break, but you won't accomplish anything if you hold back, either.

I asked my husband, "If you are lifting with buddies and you know one of them benches less weight than you do, do you put less weight on the bar for yourself spare his ego?"

"No..." he replies.

I continued on to say that he can lift a certain amount because he's trained himself to that point. And just like he shouldn't hold himself back to avoid hurting someone elses' feelings, he shouldn't expect me to pretend I'm not a naturally faster runner than he is. And if I run with him for an easy run, he needs to just swallow his pride and deal with it because 1) I don't train to run a certain pace to insult him- I do it to push myself, and 2) He knows exactly what he needs to do if he wants to go on a tempo run with me.

We all out there doing our own things- climbing our own mountains, finding our individual finish lines, or simply looking to check things off of our bucket lists. If you want to compare yourself to the person working out next to you, then just realize that you don't know how hard he or she has worked to get to where they are. With time and training, you might be able to do the same thing, or you might reach your physical limit before then. And that's OK too. Just do you.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey Day Half- Race Report

While hardly a racing veteran, I've done enough marathons, half-marathons, 5- and 10K's that I know what it takes for me to really love a race, and it doesn't always come down to my chip time. Several factors need to come together for me to not only appreciate that an event is more than just another run, but to know before I even toe the line that it's a race I will definitely want to do again.

As soon as we arrived at Turner Field and saw the droves of runners - some in turkey get-up, others in Pilgrim or Indian-inspired attire - I knew it was going to be a fun day. Everyone was smiling, albeit shivering, and excited. Journey blared from the speakers. The port-a-potties were plenty and the lines were small. All in all everything made for an easy, unfrazzled start.

I positioned myself toward the front of start wave B with the 1:45 pace group, figuring I could stick with them for a couple miles to prevent from going out too fast. The gun went off for start wave A at 7:30 and we were at the line and off by 7:35. My goal was to make miles 1-5 feel easy. I wanted to settle into a natural pace and avoid the urge to get impatient and pass people. That lasted 2 miles.

When I felt myself having to shorten my stride and really hold back, I decided I was warmed up enough and made my way around the pace group to go find the next one. A few other 1:45-ers went with me. The weather conditions were absolutely perfect: brisk, clear, no wind. I'd barely started to break a sweat in the first couple miles so I knew I could start to push a little and find my goal pace. Having forgotten my watch like the genius I am though, I had to rely on my legs' natural stride and the music on my ipod. Prodigy is a good pace-setter.

I had anticipated some decent hills and did most of my longer runs around my own neighborhood, which include some killers. I figured whatever the course had in store, I'd be more than ready for. What I didn't expect was for the first half to be mostly flat or downhill. Someone who doesn't know Atlanta better would have been lulled into a false sense of security. I knew better, so I had to get into "cruise" mode for miles 6-8. I focused on maintaining effort on hills (keeping the same breathing rate, even if it meant slowing a little) and opening up my stride while resisting speeding up too much and pounding too hard on the downhills.

It was around mile 7 that I wished I could actually capture the moment I experienced on film. We were coming up over a hill on a bridge that crosses the highway, just as the sun was rising up above the buildings and the boys choir in the Rolling Stones song "You Can't Always Get What You Want" fades to the simple 2-chord progression on an acoustic guitar. Talk about a picture perfect moment- the still morning air, feet moving seemingly in unison, poufs of vapor rising up over the sea of runners like a morning fog. Usually, I just run. And I definitely don't really soak up my surroundings when trying to PR, but this particular scene was just too perfect to ignore.

Those few minutes of calm soon gave way to a rising chorus and the mile marker that indicated it was time to dial it up a notch. I knew that miles 8-13 were mostly uphill (how kind, they gave us a .1-mile downhill just before the finish line), so it was time to put my hill work to the test. Each hill felt progressively harder but I had a song to match each climb that gave me the adrenaline I needed to push through and not care if I felt like I might puke. I can't believe that my eyes only watered and my stomach only threatened to revolt just once during the whole thing. I was in the glorious negative split territory despite the elevation changes and I was NOT going to let that slip.

By mile 12 the course clock read 1:37 or so, which I knew was 5 minutes ahead of my actual time, so I pushed hard and I would guess that I probably clocked a 7-minute mile for the last one. Again, no watch on me, so I was just running by feel. And I have to say, I highly recommend it. Say what you want about treadmills, but they have helped me hone my stride and be able to tell how fast I'm going at any clip.

Coming up over the last bump, the Olympic rings are overhead and I thought about the amazing gift that is this body, and all we are able to do with it. Sure, yesterdays' run was no herculean feat by elite standards, but that's not to say that people crossing the finish line weren't pushing themselves just as hard as the athletes that have competed in Olympic stadiums around the world. About half the field consisted of first-time half-marathoners. On Thanksgiving, a day that has become purely about indulgence and excess; ridiculous amounts of food followed by insane squandering of money on Black Friday. These first-timers, instead, chose to wake up at 5:00 AM, stand in the cold for an hour or more waiting for the start, and run their butts off for 13.1 miles. We are amazing, weird, and dedicated creatures, us runners. And I'm always proud to be a part of such a huge team.

As I approached the finish line, the course clock was closing in on 1:45 which I knew meant I had to run it hard to make my goal. Officially, I PR'd by about 4 minutes, crossing the line in a time of 1:39:51.

It was such an amazing day and a fantastic race. I wish I could retrieve the visual memory I have of the event and put it on video for you. The people cheering, the dogs barking at us (and each other) in Piedmont Park, the guy who I ended up pacing with who ran the whole way carrying an American flag in honor of a fallen soldier. Never have I experienced such an inspiring race and I can not wait until next Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

13.1-Eve (and Thanksgiving and stuff)

Nothing like a mild flirtation with an upper-respiratory ailment to put me on my ass and force me to taper. I had kind of forgotten to ease up the past few weeks and I think a cold/laryngitis was just the reminder I needed to stay off my feet for a minute to get ready for the half tomorrow morning.

Can I just add that waiting tables without a voice is... um, interesting? All I can say is hooray for competent trainees and sympathy tips. A few people were nice- they told me my raspy, croaking voice sounded sexy. I guess some people have a thing for women who sound like 60-yr-old smokers with emphysema.

Fortunately, I'm better now. I don't have my singing voice back and I still sound a little off, but I feel good. I've got enough echinacea, Umcka, and vitamin C flowing through my veins I might actually turn into a new hybrid immunity-boosting herb/plant/fruit tree.

Onto race day prep: I have a few traditions. Nothing crazy, just little things to get me pumped and in the mood to run for, say, an hour and 40 minutes or so (or at least, that's the goal).

The PlaylistA good bit of thought goes into my ears. I'll admit, even when people were trying to be strict about not allowing race participants to use their music players, I still broke the rules. It's not that I don't thrive off the crowd and air of excitement on race day, but I really love my music. It's not even that I put my most favorite songs E.V.E.R. on my list, but I enjoy trying to choreograph my race, so to speak, in the same way I choreograph a spin class. I need to start with even-paced, relatively calm music to avoid going out too fast. I need longer songs that build in intensity to really settle into my race pace. I need something mellow to "cruise" to in the middle 7-10 miles. Then I need bass-thumpin, guitar-wailing, drum-exploding, bad-ass music to push me through the last few miles and kick it in strong.

you know I gotta have me some Foo
The Primping 
I don't do much. It's more about picking out an outfit that says, "I'm a real runner, I swear!" and doing my nails. I almost went with my coworker to get my nails done yesterday, but then I remembered I wanted arm warmers to complete my outfit so opted for the home manicure instead.
Pretty in Purple

The Expo
Duh! We all know it's the best part of any major running event. Of course, it's a money pit, so you have to know going in what, if anything, you will buy from any of the numerous vendors and how much you're willing to spend. My personal tips for the expo: 1) Try on new shoes, but don't be tempted to buy them to wear the next morning for the race. They need time to break in and no matter how cool and shiny they seem, you'll miss your old kicks before you are even done warming up for the race. Save the sneaker purchase as a post-race treat. 2) Try to leave the kids at home. Trust me! I got to go without Alexis and as horrible a mom as this makes me sound, it was SO nice to peruse the racks and try on shoes without having to stop her from rearranging items on display, or accidentally making me steal stuff by hiding it in my tote bag. Also, I'm not a fan of tripping over others' kids and strollers. 3) Don't buy food unless you know what goos/gels/blocks you want and just haven't gotten a chance to buy them yet. Otherwise, you'll be tempted to buy and eat something you're not used to, just begging for your GI tract to interfere with your race plans!

Try to get out of the expo with only the things you need! (The 5-hour energies are for my hubby/chauffeur).

The Prerace Dinner
Nothing crazy for me. I indulge a bit more the few days leading up to a race, but having done a few marathons before, a half marathon is not something I go nuts with the carb-loading for. Since a lot of my fluids have been tea this weekend thanks to my throat issues, I've been adding lots of honey. Otherwise, I'm just focusing on drinking lots, eating when I'd normally eat despite the appetite going down with the cutback in miles, and keeping things relatively lean: No heavy sauces or greasy meals here. My favorite prerace dinner was the steak, arrugula and brie on croissant (trés français). I don't think I want to cook tonight, but I will aim for a hearty, light sandwich and maybe a small glass of wine.

The Race Day
My race morning fuel is a little odd, and I probably wouldn't recommend to everyone. But I can't eat a lot and I, the coffee lover, the person who's personal life motto would me "With an extra shot, please", the woman who might take coffee intravenously, if given the opportunity... you get the point... just can't stomach coffee the morning of a race. So I take 2 Excedrin with a glass of almond milk and eat a granola bar. I know, I'm weird.

OK, so what are YOUR Race Eve and Race Day traditions?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Running to rest and resting to run.

I got really moody about his upcoming Half Marathon because it wasn't the race I really wanted to do. Then, I settled down and realized I had to stop moping around about the fundraising thing and just get back to what I'm good at, which is just running. It's kind of like how I can't do a ball sport because it involves too much coordinated movement- same goes for running. I can run, but if you ask me to pair another task with running that involves any additional time or mental commitment and I suddenly become quite flustered.

And when I say uncoordinated, I mean like I fell off the risers at a Cross Country awards ceremony in high school in front of the rest of my team, uncoordinated.

So for the past few weeks my daily routine has pretty much been:

Monday- Morning routine (dress, eat, walk dogs), run, chores, lunch & nap routine (Alexis', not mine), shower, hustle to get to work, get home between 11 and midnight.

Tuesday- Morning routine, play, chores, lunch & nap, evening routine (dinner and another dog walk), hustle to get to the gym for spin class.

Wednesday- Morning routine, play, chores, lunch & nap, sit for thirty minutes and enjoy my day "off" from working out before going to work, get home between 11 and midnight.

Thursday- Morning routine, run, NO chores (I've declared Thursday to be a dish, laundry, and vacuum-free day), shower, lunch & nap, babysit 'til 6 or 7, then I actually get to have a normal, stress-free evening and bedtime routine with the daughter.

Friday- Morning routine, blog (Hi!), run, lunch & nap, hustle to work, get home between midnight and 2AM.

Saturday- Double. Work from 11AM til 11PM or later.

Sunday- OFF (hopefully a run, if the hubby doesn't guilt me out of running to stay home for "family time" which means I let him go play with his car.

Now, my motivation to run and get through my Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon (rather quickly) is to just be done and on my way up to Greenville, where no laundry, no work, and lots and lots of food await.

The only thing(s) between now and next week that threaten to get in the way are attached to my ankles. My feet have been none too pleased with 30 miles per week (try as I might, I will never run more than that) plus work. If I get moving, they're ok but for some reason it's when I'm off my feet that it feels like there are nails in my heels. It seems/feels like the tell-tail signs of plantar fasciitis but I'm one of those people that unless a doctor tells me I have something, I don't have it. A few years ago, when my sinuses were so swollen they threatened to burst out of my faces and I was blowing green snot for a week, my husband had to strong-arm me into the car to take me to a clinic, where I was told I had a severe sinus infection and was put on antibiotics for a week.

Just four more shifts and a few more runs before the 13.1, then I can see how my feet feel after I take all of Thanksgiving weekend to recover (NO shopping for me!). I'm reading about others' injury and PT struggles and just don't want to be forced into that club. Mostly, I don't like being told what to do, or what not to do. I am a therapists' nightmare, which is why I'm hoping some rest and good old-fashioned RICE-ing is all I need.

As far as self-prescribed treatment and prevention go...

Anyone out there try KT tape? I like it when it actually stays put for the whole run, which isn't often.

What are your favorite compression socks to run and/or recover in?

How do I get in the business of test-wearing new shoes, since I can't justify a new pair of shoes for every bio-mechanical obstacle I encounter?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesday Night Spin - the shuffle

Last night's class didn't introduce a lot in the way of new songs, but I did mix up the order that I played them for a change and, more importantly, a challenge.

Back in high school, my cross country coach used to yell at me for my kick at the end of the race. Fueled by the crowd and that final burst of adrenaline, I'd blast through the last 100 yards and across the finish line. I felt it made me look impressive and of course, if I could pick off a few more runners, all the better. But my coach was not a fan. She said, "A kick like that tells me you didn't run hard enough during your race."


Since then, I'd like to say I've matured as an athlete. I no longer require that final sprint to prove my strength or athleticism, but that's not to say that it doesn't feel good to throw in a fast, loud, butt-whooping song at the end of a spin class or run.

The problem with always doing that at the end of a workout is that your body may come to anticipate that last push. Some people will work hard the entire hour regardless of which drills I do when, but I did notice a few people seeming to conserve their efforts for the last song. Suddenly, I found myself in my coach's shoes. She was.... right. *grumble*

Muscle memory is an amazing thing. It tells us that stairs need to be 10.5" high (I love the things I learn on "Holmes Inspection"), helps us navigate our living rooms in the dark, makes us able to memorize songs on instruments, and much more. But this also means that our bodies can become really used to a workout and when you always do the same drills in the same order, you run the risk of not pushing yourself harder. So on the bike, do the hardest drill halfway through your workout. On a run, try to throw in a faster mile somewhere in the middle. You can even mix up your routine by starting with cardio at the gym, stopping to go lift weights, then coming back to do the rest of your aerobic workout.

But of course, don't think that just because you challenge yourself more in the middle of your routine that you can just cruise until the end. A mid-class sprint doesn't mean I won't push my class to do something challenging at the end. I'm evil like that.

Happy sweating!

Friday, November 11, 2011

I was never one for taking things slow...

The clock and I have a complicated past.

I've written in the past of my struggles with working out and the scale. Working out was my license to eat and if I knew I wasn't going to be able to squeeze in a run or time at the gym, I struggled to allow myself to eat a meal. I drove those nearest and dearest to me insane with my constant obsessing over food and when I'd be able to work out next.

Like any solid relationship, my involvement with running has grown and matured into a healthy, beautiful thing. I clock miles not because I feel like I have to, but because I know that I can. The ability to train for a distance event is no longer a way for me disguise an obsession with food, rather it's something I do because I am strong and able. But it's not always peaches n' cream. Sometimes I worry about the previous run or the next, because now that I'm done worrying about calories burned, I fret about my pace.

Mainly, the issue is that if I clock several really strong runs in a row, it's really hard for me to reel it in for a longer run and not gas out after an hour and twenty minutes. It's hard for me to shift out of tempo mode and into SLD, mostly because when I'm limited to 3-4 runs a week I can't justify easy miles to myself. Long distance is not really an issue for me. If I have my tunes I can go all day... if only I could just slow it down!

Let me use another car equation (you can thank my husband, the motorhead, for that): Let's say you normally obey all traffic laws, but you car just happens to really enjoy doing 75 mph. Suddenly, you realize you're getting low on gas and since you're in the middle of nowhere, you've gotta make what you have last until the next gas station. In order for your car to operate at its most efficient, you really ought to drive 55 mph, and not one bit faster. This will feel painfully slow and annoying to the driver used to going 75.

Same for me. My legs tend to settle into a 7:30/7:45min per mile pace. I enjoy going that quickly. I can go that fast for about 8-10 miles but after that I start to gas out. And I struggle to find ways to extend that pace for a few more miles to make my 1:40 goal for the half marathon which means - at least for now - that I ought to consider slowing down to maintain an even, albeit slower, pace. I don't like that answer.

Or maybe I'm over thinking things and need to just let the excitement and atmosphere of race day carry me through the miles and across the finish line. There have been a number of races that I thought I wasn't ready to PR in that I wound up finding the strength and stamina just by being among other runners.

Are you a clock-watcher or you do you just run by feel?

What was the best race you thought you weren't prepared for, but wound up surprising yourself at the finish?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday Night Spin

So this three-to-four days a week posting thing isn't for me, clearly. I definitely still want to keep up a weekly post relating to spin class whenever I have a new playlist or pointers to share. As far as other entries go, I'm better at writing on a whim, which is what I'll go back to rather than boring you with my life Sunday through Wednesday. Whether what I write is actually anything worth writing (or reading), well I don't really care. This is where I air my dirty laundry, go off on tangents, get on my soapbox, and type in run-on sentences.

But for now, onto spinning...

I'm up to six or seven playlists in my arsenal, so it's getting more challenging to put together new mixes without spending a lot of money on amazon.com. I also like to work on a four-class cycle, to make sure that people who show up two weeks in a row won't do the same workout twice and get the impression that I never change things up! For the most part I rotate between my standard mix which consists of every type of drill, an endurance mix that includes longer songs for sustained hills and runs, a mountain mix that gradually takes up you a big hill then back down the other side, and an interval mix that focuses on really driving up that heart rate followed by breaks of active recovery.

Yesterday I needed some rolling hills because I've recently become paranoid that I won't be prepared for my presumably hilly Turkey Day Half Marathon. While I've tackled many major hills in the area and no matter which way I go from my doorstep I have to run my first mile uphill, I get those nagging doubts that start creeping in as I lay in bed, contemplating where tomorrow's run will take me. It's those moments that I need a confidence-building workout.

I've never been a fan of back-to-back hard workouts, let alone doing anything after a long run. But a recent article in Runner's World suggests doing a shorter key workout the day after a long run before soreness from the miles sets in. The thinking behind it is that you're already gonna be hurting a little anyway, why not squeeze in another workout before it hurts to go up and down stairs? Also, you're training your body to push through the fatigue, which comes in handy in the last miles of a full or half marathon. For me, this translated to a 12(.3)-mile run on Monday and the hilly route I planned for Tuesday's spin. And you know what? It hurt so good.

One final note in this week's lesson, and a point I touched upon in class last night: now's the time to get a jump on the holiday craziness (and calories). Don't wait 'til the turkey leg is on your plate to decide whether or not you're going to maintain your routine through the holidays. So many people throw in the towel once the holiday parties start, figuring they'll pick up where they left off after New Year's. Then they roll up to the gym only to find they can't find a parking spot thanks to all the n00bs and promptly turn around and head home. Next thing they know, it's spring and bathing suits are back on the rack in the department stores and everyone flies to the gym in a panic. This kind of pattern is just as bad as yo-yo dieting. It's so much better to set your routine NOW and stick with it!

I made my class a promise last night, the kind that works two ways, as in: I'll hold up my end of this bargain if you hold up yours. I told them, "The holidays are fast approaching and along with them, their calories. Everyone's mom and grandmother will be trying to feed you. But I can promise you this: If you keep up your routine and show up here every Tuesday, you'll be able to eat what you want on Thanksgiving!"

What's your holiday approach to fitness? Do you do the same routine, try to work out more, or do you find yourself struggling to hit the road or gym?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday Night Spin - Trick or Treat!

Okay so it's a day late, but the remains of the pumpkins that survived the holiday are still out on the neighbor's porches so I'm gonna stay in the Halloween Spirit and finally do my themed playlist. Besides, we gotta work off those skittles and twizzlers!

Spooktacular Spin:

1. warm up, flat road: "Warning" Green Day
2. three position light climb/cont'd warmup - add a gear and start in pos. 1 for 1 minute, add a gear and transition to pos. 2 for 1 minute, then shift into pos. 3 to pic up the pace, repeat: "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" J.S.Bach / Tom Rossi remix
3. standing runs - light to medium res, pick it up and run in pos. 3 on the chorus up to 80% effort: "Time is Running Out" Muse
4. endurance run, light resistance - a gear or more than flat road, run it out at 75% (stay at top of aerobic zone): "Serial Thrilla" Prodigy
5. endurance climb, medium+ resistance - add a couple more gears, feel like you're pedaling in sand, try to pick it up and run in pos. 3 on the choruses (optional- don't take the added resistance off when you sit): "Space Lord" Monster Magnet
6. flat recover with runs - recovery pace for verse, run at 85% for the choruses: "Everlong" Foo Fighters
7. jumps, light resistance - 8,4, and 2-count, repeat: "Jump" Flo Rida featuring Nelly Fatado
8. three position moderate climb - start in pos. 1, transition to 2, then pick it up and add a gear when you take it out to 3 on the chorus - leave the resistance ON this time when you sit and repeat: "Thriller" (single version) Michael Jackson (you knew I had to put this one on there!)
9. heavy climb - as heavy as you can make the resistance and still pedal smoothly - make it steep and climb it out: "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" Cage the Elephant
10. downclimb - back it off to medium+ resistance start in position 3 and push an aggressive pace - every 30s. you can take off another gear until you're able to sit and run: "Halloween Americana" Everclear
11. flat recovery and sprints - you know what's coming - start at 60% /recovery pace for the first minute, as the music builds, move your feet, the music drops out and comes back in - that's you're cue to GO (90%): "Sandstorm" Darude
12. your much-deserved (and long) recovery: "Forgotten Worlds" Delerium

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Muse: Halloween Edition


Got out for a wonderful 10-miler yesterday, despite being naughty the night before after work, (I challenge you to work 12 hours in a restaurant and NOT imbibe promptly after your shift is over.) being naughtier the following morning at a friend's brunch, (Who says "No" to a mimosa or a Belgian waffle the size of your face? That's just rude.) and still being stuffy from last week's cold.

What did suck a little bit is that it felt like it took half the run to settle into a groove. Between trying to keep the boogers at bay with my sleeve, shaking out the stiffness and soreness in my feet from the previous days' labor, and trying to ignore the fact that my tape job for my plantar fasciitis was already coming loose, it was challenging to say the least to get my head into the run. Once again, my iPod, set to random, comes to the rescue. I know a lot of people out there are purists about the sport, and I'm sure I'd still be inclined to run without music blowing out my eardrums, but I probably wouldn't be nearly as quick (that's a relative term) as I am now.

If I could ever meet anyone of the musicians who frequent my playlist, I'd thank them for making me the runner I am.

Especially these guys:

One of the best songs to come on at the end of a solid run, making you kick it in.

Seven days 'til I get to see them up close and personal from the nosebleeds. Whatever, it's my first Foo concert and I am BEYOND excited. My last big concert was Green Day's "American Idiot" tour and before that... I don't know, Aerosmith's "Nine Lives" tour, maybe? Let's just say this rockin' Mama doesn't get her rock on as much as she'd like to anymore, and now lives vicariously through the musicians she listens to. Not saying I'd leave my husband for Dave Grohl (he's totally married with adorable kids, anyway) but I will scream like a school girl next Monday night.

And on Halloween, what other group do you think I'd honor than the band that dresses up the most for their videos? "Walk," "Everlong," "Big Me," "Learn to Fly," .... these guys sure love their drag, and I love them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Take-away Wednesday

I learned a quick lesson this week:

Shut my mouth and step away from the keyboard before I start bitching. It's too easy to just open the laptop and vent away from behind the cloud of pseudo-anonymity that is the internet. Not to say that releasing stress and anxiety is something we shouldn't do, but I know my emotions weren't constructive.

If I had waited until AFTER spin class to post about it, I would have happily reported that I had nearly 20 people in my class. That they were working HARD and I knew I had to put my real spin legs to keep up. That all my batteries for the mic were dead and I still managed to rally the troops, drill after drill.

I felt silly after I left class last night. That's not to say that my complaints weren't warranted, but sometimes I think I just need to sit back and allow the mood to pass without over-thinking everything- or needing to put everything into text for me to sit and read (and re-read), getting more and more agitated as I go over all the things in my head that are bugging me at any given moment.

The Halloween mix I'd been pondering did not get made yesterday, but I figure next week wouldn't be too late for a themed class being the day after Halloween. Besides, I'm sure some of the parents in my class would have already broken into their kids' stashes. I would. I'm a sucker for Twix and Milky Way. That's why I'm taking my girl to a kid-geared party in the park instead of trick-or-treating.

Anyway, two of the then-major, now-minor annoyances that have gotten under my skin have been resolved this week: The run I missed was made up for on Monday, and the class I had been dreading turned out to be rockin'. That just leaves one thing... the pot of chicken curry I made last night that got left out on the stove and now must be thrown away. No worries, I don't feel the need to vent about that now.

QOTD: How do you cope when you start to feel like you're getting all worked up for nothing?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday Night Spin

I'm recycling a playlist from 4 weeks ago because I'm lazy. I was going to do a Halloween-themed ride but I don't know... when I'm only ever "playing" to an audience of 4-6 people, I feel like it's a waste of effort. Maybe I'll go check out some others' playlists online and see if I get inspired.

The problem is, I'm still struggling to get people to come back from week to week. I don't know if it's the time - 6:45 PM - or the location, or a combination of both (thanks to Atlanta rush-hour... which is more like a rush-3-hour), but attendance is still inconsistent and I kind of feel silly up there, saying motivational things to such a small class and they're just looking at me like we're the only ones here... just shut up and play your music and then we can all go home.

Well, maybe it's my own head and insecurities that say those things. But I wonder, am I really serving a purpose?

I do know that when I was just taking classes and I carved out a time slot in my schedule for a specific date and time, I was annoyed when the instructor would cancel or have some sub in at the last minute who is normally a Zumba instructor or something and she's just gonna put on her dance tunes and make something up on the fly. No thank you. You all know how I feel about Gaga and Kesha (that's right, it's an "S" people, a dollar sign is not a friggin letter).

So needless to say, I don't want to do that to anyone who does specifically go to the gym on Tuesday evening for a spin class. But I'm not gonna lie - sometimes, especially right after a very low-attendance class, I just want to call out. I figure, they won't miss me much.

I wonder how other instructors have overcome this hurdle? I knew I was facing a challenge when I was told the Tuesday night class had not had a regular instructor for at least a year; that they were planning on doing away with it all together until I showed up asking to take it over. I think one of the issues is that members at this particular location are just locked into their own worlds, unwilling to break out of their usual routines and try something new. I can't tell you how many people I see just walking - no, STROLLING - on the treadmills while watching tv and clacking away at their mobile devices. I want to run over there yelling, "You can walk and talk all you want outside, you're in a GYM now! Get your butt in my class and do a REAL workout!!" But... I'm pretty sure that would get me fired.

Well, if nothing else I guess I should just hop over to amazon.com and check out some tunes to put me in a better mood. Screw everyone else, I am going to have a great class tonight.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Morning Muse

Alright, I've hung my head and felt sorry for myself for a good 24 hours. A number of factors played a roll in yesterdays' meltdown blog entry:

The fundraising issue for one. I officially hang up my hat to try again next year on 10/30, provided I don't get some sort of miracle donation. I'll keep pushing people for this last week (the money does still go toward research to find a cure for Crohn's and colitis) and maybe try to find a few celebrities to email, but I'm pretty sure I'll have to just swallow my pride and deal with the fact that I can't do this particular race.

Work. I work with great people in the restaurant, but when it comes to the higher ups there's just no support. I understand they have all of Mr. T's stuff to deal with and Captain Planet board meetings and important decisions to make like whether we use black or white linen (apparently this is a big deal- and a good story for the T.I.P.S. section), but when it comes to the lowly restaurant staff needing something, we feel kind of snubbed. I guess the trade-off is that while they come downstairs to show off their stripes and having big shot business people out to lunch, their phones and emails are blowing up 24/7, whereas when I'm done with my shift, I'm done with my shift. Still, it's frustrating to be looked down upon, and downright insulting that they won't give any of our charities the time of day.

The run. I'm sure some of my other running mamas can identify with that crushing feeling of defeat when you get yourself psyched up for a good run only to have plans change. In my case, I knew I needed to give the day to the hubs because he wanted/needed time to work on his car. I figured I could nail down someone who'd watch the little bit but my babysitters were unavailable and the neighbors whose girl I watch once a week were helping someone move. So I had one of those, Where is everyone when I need them??? moments.

But I had to get out there. I had to stop moping and make something of my day so I did what I like to call an OCD-housecleaning - complete with shining faucets and Pledging tables and bookshelves - and did manage to make it out with the daughter for 5.5 miles through twisty, hilly Freedom and Candler Parks. It was murder on the ankles and arms though, tilting the stroller back every 50 yards to take sharp corners while trying to maintain balance and keep the wheels of the jogger on the path. Definitely need a new place to run when I have the daughter with me. This particular path starts 20 minutes from where I live, by car, but I think the drive would be worth it.

Today, though, it will be me and the 'mill. A few of the mama bloggers have been debating the topic recently, but my sentiment about the treadmill has always been the same: You do what you gotta do to do the run. Especially when you have to knock out some serious mileage. As much as I'd love to push a stroller for an hour and a half, I think my daughter would get bored to tears, so really, when I run on the TM I'm doing it for her.

For me, getting through a long run requires just one thing: good music. I like music that makes me feel like I'm in an action movie, being chased through an urban jungle, doing some crafty parkour shit.

One of my favorite songs to run to:

Don't actually know what movie they used this song in. Doesn't look very action-packed at all, actually, but there are lots of dramatic looks exchanged so I'm sure something dark and scary is going on.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Antifunday


I don't think I'm going to Vegas.

I just can't raise the money in time, and I feel like crap for it. I fail at fundraising. Both companies I work for can't/don't/won't support fundraising endeavors because they're corporate. I'd love to host something like a cycle-a-thon but the gym won't have it. It's against the rules to sell anything in the restaurant, and I can tell guests about the race if they ask, but could get fired if I imply I'm seeking donations.

But I'm still over $2000 short and there's just no way I'll raise the money in time for the November 16th deadline.

I feel defeated, and I feel like shit. I don't even want to run the other race I'm training for, because it means nothing compared to the one I was trying to do.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Look up there ^

Don't forget to check out the "T.I.P.S." section of this blog, which deals with whatever restaurant-related issues are on my mind at whatever given moment. The topic changes weekly, so check it out and speak your mind!

stompin' in jack-o-lantern's weather

It took until the 20th of October to get here, but I finally ran what felt like a real autumn run this morning. Like, cold enough to start with gloves and a long-sleeved technical shirt zipped up to my chin. Brisk enough to have goosebumps and shiver a bit for the first couple miles. Windy enough to turn my shirt into a handkerchief (don't cringe- you know you wipe your nose on your sleeve and I won't believe you if you deny it).

I love it!

Of course, I chuckle a little when I see myself decked out for a run when it's 45° because at the same temperature, had I never moved from New York down south, I'd still be in shorts and a t-shirt. I remember celebrating "warm fronts" in the winter time that would take us up out of the single digits and into the 20's. But whatever, I'm getting out there and I'll continue to do so. One thing I didn't do often enough last winter was run outdoors. Without a fall or winter race to train for I didn't care about running more than 5 miles at a time, which, at 40 minutes on the treadmill, is nothing. I was just trying to maintain my fitness and didn't need to prove anything by clocking miles on pavement.

This year, though, I am just loving getting out there. Trail, sidewalk, gravel or road, I don't care. In the woods, I can soak in the scenery and run for miles without noticing the passage of time or distance. On the street, I get the satisfaction of breezing by rush-hour traffic and feeling speedy as I race down the hill back into my neighborhood at the end of my route. Wherever I am, this weather pushes me to go as fast as my legs and my lungs will let me.

What's your favorite fall run?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Team Challenge Update

I'm taking a break from my regular posts because I'm focusing hard on fundraising like crazy. I have my go-to playlist that I usually pull out once a month when my brain is too fried to come up with something new, so I can spend naptime giving an update on my Team Challenge and Half Marathon training progress.

First, the running:
All I can say is, WOW. I don't think I've ever done back-to-back 7+ mile runs on consecutive days and not been sore but this time around, something has changed. I don't know if I've finally been broken in from previous marathons (or marathon weekends at work), but my legs feel hardier than ever and I'm running 8-minute miles, no sweat. Except for the gnats. If you live in the south, you know what I'm talking about. Those f*****s are e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. Ugh! And the stinkbugs!

My longest run to date for the season is 9 miles in 1:15. With the cooler temps I haven't even felt the need to take water or anything else with me on a run. I'm even contemplating not bothering with gels or blocks at all and just relying on the hydration stations along the course when I run Atlanta and Vegas. I suppose I do have the ridiculously hot and humid summer to thank - I don't break a sweat until I'm well into my run.

Anyone else out there skipping race nutrition? At what point is your cut-off that determines if you consume calories or rely in liquids alone?

Part Two, the fundraising:

It's a little scary, being responsible to bring in so much for an organization. The idea seems so great and noble initially, until you realize you need to fully commit to the team and say, "If I don't raise the money, I'll make up the difference." Most fundraisers that include travel and racing have this stipulation, which I understand. I knew this wasn't going to be a free trip or a free run. But I have a long way to go: $2180, to be exact.

Yikes :-O

So I need some help. If there's a chance that you're one of the bigger bloggers out there whom I love and admire, All I need you to do is share a link- either to my blog or my fundraising page. I'm asking everyone to consider even a small donation but if you simply can't do it, it would help so much if you at least shared my mission - to raise money to find a cure for Crohn's disease and colitis and to fund support and education for patients.

Cuz you see, I had a moment (well, the moment lasted 4 days, to be exact) when I panicked and thought, "I can't do this!" I felt aweful. I've taken in $520 of my friends' and family's hard-earned money already -- and it seemed like it was all going to be for nothing. We had to make the ultimate decision to fully commit or not, and I thought there was no way I could possibly meet my goal.

But then I thought about my friends in the hospital, or going to the doctor every other week. People waiting for medication and treatment, or simply waiting to get sick enough that the hospital can't turn them away for being uninsured. I thought about a 2-yr-old who can't comprehend why he can't eat without his entire body hurting. I thought about what a punk I'd be if I gave up now.

I have faith that I can do this.


Thank you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Take-away Wednesday

If there's one thing I learned from running, waiting tables and now, chasing a toddler, is that my body is begging for fuel and if I don't give it the right stuff, I'm bound to crash and burn. When that happens, it's even uglier than the nastiest person I could imagine serving. I'm pretty sure there have been several confrontations that may have been avoided had I been properly nourished. In fact, we all need the right fuel to function properly. I've waited on a number of people who started off quite cranky, picking apart everything about me, the table, the restaurant and the menu, but as soon as they get a few bites in them they morph back into a tolerable individual who may actually leave a tip. Food = Success.

Sometimes, the need for calories strikes before I've had a chance to contemplate a nutritious meal and I find myself downing whipped cream in a desperate attempt to fill my stomach as quickly as possible. Not healthy.

In the past few weeks I've ramped up my running game and just to make things more interesting, starting working out in the morning. My legs have held up to the sudden jump to 30 miles per week for the most part, except when I forget to do things like, oh, EAT. The morning routine transitions all too quickly into the afternoon rush of trying to get Alexis down for a nap followed by having to get ready for work. Before I know it, I'm at the restaurant stuffing my face with dinner rolls and old fries. That's an appealing image, right? (Actually, it's hilarious. If it's the end of the night and there's a pan of hot rolls that we know won't sell, we're all in the kitchen, devouring the fluffy white bits of bread like we're freakin' orphans - except we dive for the food BEFORE it hits the trash can. We're not THAT desperate to eat, I don't think.)

Heading into last week, I felt a little off and I knew the food issue was to blame. Naturally, I don't want to fill up with just junk every time the tummy grumbles, so sometimes I'll skip a snack thinking, "I don't need that crap." Truth is, I need something. I found this out after running six miles on Sunday, seven on Monday, and then taught spin class Tuesday night. My legs felt like lead. I'm sure my face frightened my class because I was trying to suppress the grimace with an overly-toothy grin. I felt weak and choppy and I was cursing myself that I'd only brought water to class. That night, I ate like it was my first and last meal, ever.

For a quick reality check, I jumped over to a website with a decent calorie intake calculator. I entered in my basic stats and exercise level and came back with a somewhat surprising number: 2317.

Woot! Ben & Jerry's, here I come!

Ok, it's more like almond milk, oatmeal, bananas, peanut butter, and Power Bars, here I come.

Actually, last week's bonk inspired some yummy food discoveries. I made a turkey chili by simmering ground turkey, onion and yellow bell pepper in canned enchilada sauce (a tasty and inexpensive short-cut when you don't have equipment to puree your own tomatoes with seasoning and spices). For a late lunch that I brought with me to work, I filled wheat tortillas with mixed greens, some of the chili mix, and topped it with a little cheese.

I also discovered these little nuggets of joy:

So yummy. So friggin addictive. Pretty cheap at Target!

This week's take-away: Feed yourselves right! A bonk is the first clue that you need to evaluate your nutritional intake. But just like you wouldn't put regular fuel in a car that only takes premium, don't put just any crap in your belly. For me, that's easy. I ask myself, "Would I let Alexis eat this?" If not, I don't eat it, either. Another thing to make sure of is that you can read the ingredient list. If your food shares an ingredient with, say, hair gel -- I saw this once, I forget the food but the ingredient was propylene glycol, which is in a couple of my hair products -- you would probably do well to pass it up.

Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday Night Spin - Isolation

A quick word about isolation exercises:

These are generally contraindicated. A lot of drills people have come up with over the years are not something you'd see a cyclist doing on the road, so why would we do them indoors? However, riding indoors means we also don't face all the same conditions as riding outside - no wind, no turns, no downhills - so certain exercises can help challenge the body in ways that only sitting or standing can not.

Here are my own rules when it comes to isolation:

*Hands on the handlebars! You wouldn't take them off your bike if you were on the road, so don't do it in class! I've heard instructors tell their class to stand up to climb, but then alternate putting either arm behind their backs or worse, letting go entirely. Not safe. You shouldn't be leaning on the handlebars, but if you put every last ounce of your weight over your knees in an awkward position, you're asking for trouble.

*Isolation exercises should still mimic a normal riding position and serve some sort of function. Hovering over the saddle and staying really low is something a rider might do in strong headwinds. Focusing on pulling up on the hamstrings is a way to train the legs to have a more efficient pedal stroke. When eliminating the bounce of riding to isolate the quads, this also trains the legs to pedal more effectively rather than using the whole body to bounce up and down. The more you move your whole body, the more energy you take away from your legs.

*Don't do it if it hurts. I always tell my riders - especially noobs - that if you feel any kind of strain or pain in your hips and knees, just sit and ride. If you were riding your bike out on the road, you would naturally settle into the most comfortable riding position, anyway. These are just exercises to mix up the routine but ultimately, if you're not ready to try them, it's okay to "sit it out" so to speak... just keep working, of course!

This is one of my favorite playlists and it includes a mix of hills, runs, hamstring and quad drills. I've got a little something from every decade starting in the 1960's and working up to today. Have fun!

"Rock of the Ages"
1. warm up - flat road, optional individual leg-warm/up 30s each - "Light My Fire" The Doors
2. seated run - add a gear, quick cadence, work up to 70% effort - "I Wanna Be Sedated" Ramones
3. 3 position climb - add a gear start in pos. 1, stand in pos. 2 on the bridge, add a gear in pos. 3 on the chorus. Back to pos. 1, leave the resistance on and repeat the cycle (should be heavy by the end!) - "Livin on a Prayer" Bon Jovi
4. flat recovery/run - recovery pace for the verse, pick it up and run on the chorus - "Basket Case" Green Day
5. isolation - light to medium resistance - sit and run at 70% for the verses, stand in pos. 3 for the chorus chorus; try to eliminate all bouncing so that ONLY the legs are moving - "Dance, Dance" Fallout Boy
6. climb to the max - started seated at med. resistance, adding a gear every 30-45s. until you have to stand (don't drop below 60rpm - once you can't maintain that cadence, you can stand) - "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" Cage the Elephant
7. recovery/endurance run - 1st minute is recovery on a flat road, then add a gear back in and pick up the pace to 80%/top of your aerobic zone. Hold this pace as you add a hair of resistance at 1-min. intervals - "Whole Lotta Love" Led Zepplin
8. rolling hills/seated climb - alternated seated run at light resistance on the verse, add a couple gears and run in pos. 3 at med. resistance on the chorus ("Laaaay-laaaa") - when the music slows for the super-long outro, take it to heavy resistance and climb it out 'til the end - "Layla" Derek and the Dominos
9. recovery/run - flat road, recover for 1st minute, then pick up the pace and run on the chorus, take it up to 90% this time - "Rebel Yell" Billy Idol
10. hovers - medium resistance: start in pos. 1, transition to pos. 3 on the bridge, then take it back and hover over the saddle (work those Hammies!) on the chorus - "Mysterious Ways" U2
11. last hill - keep it at med. resistance, sit and climb, add a few gears to make it steep and stand up to charge up the hill on each music break (when the music picks up) - "Seven Nation Army" White Stripes
12. run it out - flat road, recover for a minute then pick the pace back up to 80%. Take it to an all-out sprint on the chorus - "Walk" Foo Fighters
13. Recover and stretch! - "Everlong (Live)" Foo Fighters

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Morning Muse

Today's female-to-male ratio while running? Something like 8:1. Go ladies! I think this calls for some chick rock.

Sunday Funday

Well, actually, these are pics from the weekend, mostly from around the Bed & Breakfast we stayed at in Auburn, AL. We traveled to go to a BBQ hosted by an auto tuning company for its vendors and customers (go man stuff!) but it turned out to be a nice reprieve for us, too. I encourage people to get out of their comfort zone when exercising, but who knew that getting out of your TIME zone could be beneficial, too! We were on central time while our bodies were still on east coast, so we were waking up at 7:00 AM without an alarm and actually going to bed at a reasonable hour. That turned out to be the perfect formula for a good run first thing in the morning on Saturday.

The back yard of the B&B, which made me feel like I was Grammy's house.
Coffee, check. Runner's World, check. Perfect start!

The house feels a little like a time warp.

Obligatory macro + water feature shot.

APR's slogan. Mine, too.

Such a gorgeous weekend.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Take-away Wednesday

In this week's Team Challenge newsletter, our chapter leader attached a letter written by one of our teammates who's been in and out of the hospital due to the advanced stage of her Crohn's disease. I told you about her- the "I'm gonna crawl across the f******g finish line" girl.

Well this letter... I'll just say I should have had tissues nearby.

She spoke of the pain and isolation of Crohn's disease, especially in the condition she's in. Without insurance, the hospital had to go the cheap route and send her home with an IV and pain meds until they could drain absences in her intestines and give her a course of antibiotics. Then, she learned they could not perform her surgery knowing that she would be unable to pay. She has to write letters and beg any hospital or pharmaceutical company that will hear her case to consider treating her so that her disease does not advance to the point of no return. Through all of this, she's been pushing onward with her fundraising and getting to Las Vegas. She says she wants to "stick it" to Crohn's at the finish line to prove that it won't hold her back.

The most poignant part of her letter was when she shared how much love and support she received from relative strangers - those of us in Team Challenge. People she didn't know a month ago helped collect her mail, arrange care for her cat, and sat and spent time with her in the hospital. It made me proud to be a part of something so special, and even more determined to reach my fundraising goal.

Please help spread the word about Team Challenge and the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. Find the link on the right side of this page and consider a small donation. Your money will go toward helping researchers find a cure for this debilitating and painful disease, as well as provide support for people like my teammate who struggle to receive the care she so desperately needs.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tuesday Night Spin - Cruise control

We're definitely not talking about just cruising along in spin class. Today's drills are all about consistency. Just like your car maintains a steady speed through hills and flats when you set it to cruise control, we will be doing the same thing for several of tonight's drills. On the bike, this translates to holding the same steady pedal stroke over flat roads, up hills, in the seat and out of the saddle.

One great way to challenge yourself on the bike is to try to go the same speed even as you add resistance. We're not talking about climbing the Great Wall here, just adding a hair of resistance at a time and pushing your body to keep the same cadence. With monitors, this is easy. Just keep that number at 60 rpm or above - if you're going much slower because the resistance is too heavy, you'll lose cardio benefits and possibly damage your bike. Since the bikes in my room don't have monitors, it's my responsibility as an instructor to set the example of how fast or slow to go and provide the right tunes to give people something to pedal to.

Another challenge is to pick up the pace to a fast run that is at the edge of your aerobic zone. The goal here is to get out of your comfort zone: Your legs should ache a little and should be breathing hard but able to answer a question. At the top end of your aerobic zone, you can hold this faster pace for at least 3-5 minutes if you had to, but if you feel like you could keep going all day you're not going fast enough! If you're panting and gasping for air and your legs are on fire, then you're anaerobic and you need to back off the pace.

As always, you are the best judge of how hard you are working. Adding a couple drills like these to your cardio routine will certainly help you improve endurance as well as blast calories (and, let's face it, that's what a lot of us are out to do!)

10/4 - Cruise Control
1. warm up - flat road; pedal with both legs for first 2 minutes, right leg (leave other on the pedal, just focus on using one leg at a time) for 30s, left for 30s, then pedal evenly 'til end - "Ants Marching" Dave Matthews Band
2. warm up cont'd - 3 position run, add a gear, start in pos 1 on verse, pos 2 for the bridge, and pos 3 for the chorus; on last run through, add one more gear - "Let's Get it Started" Black Eyed Peas
3. cruise #1, run - keep whatever resistance you've added on, find the edge of your aerobic zone and try to stay their for the duration of the song - "Block Rockin Beats" Chemical Brothers
4. cruise #2, climb - add another gear and slow it down, when you stand on the chorus add a couple gears to keep the same cadence, take it off when you sit - "When I'm Gone" 3 Doors Down
5. jumps - back it off to light to med resistance, jump on an 8 count, then 4, then 2 - "A Little Less 16 Candles..." Fallout Boy
6. cruise #3, run - start at a flat road, find a pace that feels about 70% of your max effort (this should feel kinda easy to start, that's the point), every minute add a gear, it WILL get harder, TRY not to slow down! Stand for the last minute to keep up a strong pace - "Climbatize" Prodigy
7. cruise #4, climb - keep the resistance where it's at, start in pos 1 for the verse, pos 3 for the chorus; when you stand and run, add a gear then take it off when you sit (again, maintaining cadence) - "Ready to Go" Republica
8. recovery! - flat road, flush it out - "Here it Goes Again" OK Go
9. cruise #5, heavy climb - heavy resistance that you can still sit and pedal smoothly through (keep at 60 rpm), breathe deep and climb it out; this is kind of a meditative song so try to let go of all your thoughts and tension and just climb - "Purify" Balligomingo
10. standing runs w/ recovery - light resistance, pos 1 verse, pos 2 bridge, stand and run in pos 3 - "Like a Pill" Pink
11. jumps - light resistance, 8/4/2 - "Do You Want To" Franz Ferdinand
12. run it out - flat road (+ for control), sprints on chorus - "The Pretender" Foo Fighters
13. cool down - "Beyond" Balligomingo

total time ~ 56 minutes

Monday, October 3, 2011

2-for-1: Sunday Funday / Monday Morning Muse

We've been working on "Thomas Puzzle" for a while - she can now assemble most of this 24-piece puzzle by herself!

I often run on S-bucks, but will ultimately seek caffeination anywhere I have a coupon for. Today, that was Einstein's. I had to force myself to endure their Autumn Roast and pumpkin bagel w/ pumpkin cream cheese. Oh darn!

After a coffee-fueled 6.5 miles came even more indulgence in the form of a charcuterie plate (as well as pumpkin ravioli and Georgia Mtn Trout). We went to the fantastic Local Three here in Atlanta. I want to eat here for the rest of my life work here.

Crayons and disposable menus, filed under: How to Keep a Toddler Happy In a Restaurant. To my absolutely astonishment, she actually drew the heart on the right. For real. My TWO-year-old did that!

 Not a shabby day at all, if I might say so myself.

Whatever tears at us, whatever holds us down... and if nothing can been done we'll make the best of what's around.

Great song to have come on in the earlier part of this morning's 7-miler. Nothing like some old DMB to put a little pep in my step. Say what you want about white kids in their beanies with their acoustic guitars in the middle of the park, no one will ever ruin this band for me.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Take-away Wednesday

Hubs and I had to have a talk last night.

One of those talks where he complains about everything she's not doing to keep things *ahem* interesting the relationship, and she reacts with a concise list of all the things she does throughout the day and how when she comes home from work at 12:30 AM and sees that all the laundry she did still hasn't been put away, it's hard for her to focus on doing anything "interesting" for him.

Something that he said to me, however, that was a point I hadn't considered before and clearly needed to, was that he felt like he was playing second fiddle to everything else I do. He says I'll set my alarm to get up for a run, plan all these things that I want or need to do when the daughter takes a nap, but I seem to struggle to find time for him.

And he's right... this is something I have to work out.

I did say in my defense, though, that on paper I work 32 hours, but in reality the time I spend in the restaurant does top out near 40, so if we're both working full-time then something's gotta give around the house. I understand that men are pretty content with the state of their abode so long as they have clean underwear, but what about when I run out of underwear?

So something's gotta give on both sides. He has to understand that I just can't relax when there's a consistent to-do list that seems to never, ever get done. I have to understand that if I'm going schedule time to keep up with my training, then I also need to set aside time elsewhere to keep up with my husband.

Kind of makes me miss the days when we'd duck out of the local coffee house early to go park his car somewhere, then we'd sneak back to our respective houses where his mom did his laundry and my parents lived in such a mess it didn't matter if I even tried to keep my room clean. The only thing I put off to hang out with my boyfriend was sleep. And sleep is SO not cool when you're in high school.

before wedding, came prom