Back to racing

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On Saturday, I ran my first race since the marathon. My knee was finally better, and I was feeling strong. I knew I was ready for it. Besides, this race was pretty casual, about as noncompetitive as it gets. It was the Bayou City Classic, a 10k and 5k that benefits the Houston Park Board. No medals, just a great course, post-party and fun.

And even though I knew there was no pressure, I started to feel it as I pulled into the parking lot on that dark morning. I was nervous. Why do I do think to myself? I thought. I could be at home, in bed, sleeping in, then running on my own. No pressure. No stress. Why do I do this?

As I chatted with a few friends waiting for the race to start, my nerves subsided…a little. The gun went off. I crossed the starting line and took off. I was shooting for an 8:30 pace. I didn’t want to risk hurting my knee again, and my lungs still weren’t as strong as they used to be.

The miles went by without much struggle. 8:34, 8:35, 8:32. I kept waiting to get that feeling of dread, when it all hurts and you wonder how the finish line isn’t closer, but it never came. I was exceeding my expectations. 8:24, 8:26, 7:29.

And that’s why I do this. It’s not the really about the time. Or the medals. It’s for that feeling when you surprise yourself. When you do something you weren’t 100% sure you could. That feeling is always what I’m racing toward.  

Food as fuel

I’m pretty impatient when it comes to certain things: traffic, slow computers, my not-so-quick to heal IT band that I may have mentioned a dozen times here or there. So while I was waiting on it, I decided to try and speed things up by focusing on my diet.

I eat fairly healthy most of the time, but I don’t necessarily the way an athlete should. So I really focused on getting enough calories and the right kind, specifically protein. I made sure to eat before and after working out. I know, I know. This is like athlete nutrition 101. But I often skipped one of the two. I’d get lazy and then tell myself, those rules were for the pros. They weren’t for me. Pretty sure I was wrong about that one. But that’s the thing about your fitness routine and your diet. You have to find what works for you and that means a lot of trial and error.

I’ve also been focusing on hydrating: drinking more water and using hydration tablets during and after workouts. I’ve also been trying to get more potassium. For breakfast, I’ve been having smoothies or a oatmeal with almond butter, pepitas, almond slivers and a sliced banana.

And, I’ve been trying to cut sugar. This is a tough one for me. Allow me to explain:

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That’s me.

But word on the street is that sugar isn’t great for you. So instead of ice cream, I’m choosing smoothies. I’m a big fan of one with oats, almond milk, almond butter (I use this kind. No added sugar), cocoa nibbs and a banana. It’s almost as good as a chocolate shake.

What are some ways you fuel or recover from your workouts?

Taking the work out of working out

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The other day one of my friends asked me how I find motivation to workout. I gave her a lot of answers, and I’m not totally sure it was all that helpful, but it really got me thinking about that.

On days when working out seems tough, I remind myself that this is something that I chose to do. Even if it’s an activity I love, sometimes – like the times when I’m tired and my bed is warm, or it’s been a long day, etc. – I have to remind myself that I love it. I remind myself that I’ll feel better afterwards. And that I like who I am better when I fulfill my commitments toward my fitness goals.

I was reminded of this way of thinking during 40 Days yoga challenge. At a meeting a girl said that originally, participating in 40 Days was stressing her out. She said she made herself a victim of her own decision. It was a feeling I could relate to. But by focusing on the choice and remembering why she made it, the stress subsided.

It works when I’m in the middle of a tough workout too. On days when running seems tough, and one more mile just seems too far, I remind myself that I chose this. I remind myself that I’m lucky to be out there. That there are plenty of people that would love to trade places with me. That there were days, not so very long ago, when that distance would have been almost been impossible and it’s possible that those days could come again.

It’s a tactic that works well with anything. Well, a lot of things. (I haven’t tried focusing on my choice to clean the house, yet.) When I focus on the choice I get a little sense of control and power. And we all kind of need that sometimes. We’re used to seeing fitness and workouts as something that you have to do. I mean, it’s called work-ing out, right? Our society focuses on how to drop a dress size in the quickest way. It’s like everyone is looking for the easiest way out.

But what if we all focused a little less on the working part of working out? No, I’m not suggesting you start calling it something dumb like a “fun out.” I’m not that lame. But if we focused on the choice and all the reasons why we liked it, then maybe it would be a little bit easier.     

Back at it

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So, getting back to running is hard.

I tried my best to stay in shape with cross training, but nothing’s quite the same as running. (Plus, I tend to get little lazy when machines are involved.) With a successful 3 miles under my belt, I decided to take it up to 5 a few days later (with some cross training in between to give my knees a break). By the last mile, my knee was talking to me, but the pain didn’t linger.

I had originally planned on running a half marathon that weekend, but I knew I just wasn’t ready for it. Another week, sure. But I didn’t have another week. Sitting out the race kinda sucked, but I was confident I had made the right decision. It wasn’t worth a step backward.

Instead of the race, I set out to try 6 miles. After a walk-run warm up, I got going. There was pain, but it kept moving. Whenever it would start, I would focus on a different body part and the pain would fade. I figured since it kept moving instead of lingering in my left knee that I was good to keep going. I ended up with 8 miles, and even topped off the last one under 9 minutes.

I can’t remember the last time 8 miles felt so tough, but I didn’t even care. My heart rate was crazy high. But whatever. It was a huge step forward.

 

Rest day reading 3.5

 

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My rest day was actually yesterday, but let’s not get technical. It’s a beautiful weekend in Houston and I don’t have many plans outside of running, yoga and riding my bike.

Here’s a quick look at what I’ve been reading:

This gorgeous blog post by Lauren Fleshman. “And you must, you really must. Because there will be days, weeks, months, maybe years when you can’t.” 

-The NY Times has a sample of Jen A. Miller’s “Running: A Love Story.” I can’t wait to read the whole thing.

On running recovery

This weekend I ran for the first time AND IT DIDN’T SUCK.

This was big for me. (As if the all caps wasn’t enough of a clue.)

Dealing with injuries are far from fun, and my recent experience with ITBS was no different. I wasn’t able to do something I love and suffered a lot of FOMO watching all my friends organize their weekend mornings runs knowing I wouldn’t be able to keep up.

But more than that, it left me feeling pretty lame. I felt weak. I wondered why everyone else seemed to be going off on long runs weeks after the marathon with little to no problem and why I couldn’t do the same. In my worst moments, I was a crazed hypochondriac and Googled all the reasons why my muscles might not be healing.  

The truth is, ITBS just takes a long time. Even if you’re doing everything right. And what I came to realize was that I actually wasn’t weak. And I wasn’t falling short of my goals.

In a lot of ways, I was still on track. In fact, I was going to end up being a better runner in the end. I was doing strength exercises to help build some consistency. I kept my heart rate up with cross training. I was cleaning up my diet. And really focusing on building recovery habits, like stretching, hydrating and foam rolling. I actually think I’ll keep a lot of the habits I picked up during this time and make them a part of my regular routine.

Of course, I’m still really looking forward to getting back to running.

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I just wrapped up a 40-day yoga challenge. It was hard and rewarding and very, very sweaty. I tested the limits of my schedule, managed to get my arms a little straighter in wheel pose and did so. much. freaking. laundry. I’d highly recommend it.

But there are a few things you should know going in. So, just to prepare you, here are a few thoughts that might cross your mind during a 40-day long yoga challenge, or any length for that matter.

Day 1 This is going to be so great.

Day 4 Holy crap. That’s got to be a record for sweating.

Day 7 Huh, I think I’m a little sore

Day 8 Nope, I’m definitely sore.

Day 12 Where did I leave my mat?  

Day 15 I cannot do one more high boat, low boat.

Day 20 Where did I leave my mat?

Day 22 Why does waterproof mascara only come off during hot yoga?

Day 23 I have never done so much laundry.

Day 26 I’m never signing up for one of these again.

Day 29 No one in the history of the world has ever sweated that much.

Day 30 Before class: There is no way I can do wheel pose today.

After class: I totally rocked wheel pose today.

Day 32 God, how long are we holding warrior one today?

Day 33 No one in the history of the world has ever done this much laundry.

Day 35 Are they going easier on us?

Day 38 Am I actually stronger?
Day 40 I would definitely do this again.