Thursday, January 28, 2010

Attack of the Skinny Adolescents

So I figured out when not to run on our local running trail. I got home today around 4:30, excited for the chance to get a workout in on a weekday while it was still light out. Ollie and I headed out to the trail, and right away we were flooded with a barage of kids. Jr. high and high school aged, boys and girls, all skinny, and all fast. Like, they lapped me on the mile loop fast.

I just wrote a whole rant about how most of them were inconsiderate and made parts of my workout a whole lot more difficult. But I erased it. Part of this training is working on having a better attitude when I face obstacles, and so I'm taking a conscious step in that direction.

In happier news, Couch to 5k Week 3.... check!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Little Emotional

I successfully completed Week 3 Day 2 of Couch to 5k tonight!

Last week, it was a huge, huge challenge for me to run 90 seconds straight without stopping. One of the hardest things I've ever asked my body to do. This week my workouts are 2 90-second runs and 2 3-minute runs, all mixed up and with some walking in between. I wouldn't say the short runs were easy, necessarily, but I loved it. I didn't feel like I was going to die when they were over. I felt like I was flying. I may or may not have shed a few happy tears when I got home and processed what I had just pushed myself to do.

I have a feeling that I'm going to start noticing that sensation (awe, maybe?) more and more as I build my endurance.

I had a million reasons not to go out for my run tonight, but I did. If I had stayed home, I would have missed out on running under the stars (a rarity around here in the winter), past the frogs making silly noises in the pond and the discovery of my new favorite running song, The Bitch Went Nuts by Ben Folds. It's hilarious.

I'm happy.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Truffle Shuffle

Right when we decided to start running, we registered for a short, manageable local race in February. It's called the Truffle Shuffle, it's a nice flat 2 miles along the river, and it's sponsored by a beloved local chocolate company, so everyone gets a truffle at the finish line. Talk about dangling a carrot in front of me!

I was looking for the race site today to see what time it started to put it on my calendar. When I googled Truffle Shuffle, I learned that the term is from the movie Goonies (which, incidentally, was filmed here in Oregon)! Of course I've seen the movie, but I'm awful at pop culture quotes and references, so I never would have gotten the connection.

For your amusement, may I present you with the original truffle shuffle:

On Visualization

Have you ever been told to use visualization in difficult, stressful situations? I have, and I've always struggled with it. Resented it, even. If I'm feeling anxious or uncomfortable, the last thing that's going to make me feel better is to picture myself sitting calmly in my happy place, with butterflies and rainbows all around me. Oh, and lollipops. Can't forget the lollipops.

But then this running thing came around, and it's challenging pretty much every assumption I've ever made about the capabilities of my body and mind. I don't want to get ahead of myself here, it hasn't even been a month, but I feel like it's true.

Last week, I was feeling particularly sluggish during my run, and all of a sudden I started imagining myself at Disney World. I'm not going to tell you which Disney character was running with me, because that would be embarrassing (ok fine, it was Stitch), and this is hokey as all hell, but I could hear a band playing Zippidee Doo Dah and people cheering me on as I ran. It was completely exhilarating and without a doubt, this little fantasy got me through my run.

I guess it does work.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

If the Shoe Fits...

Getting fitted for running shoes was a completely new experience for me. We live in one of the best running towns in the world (the nickname is Tracktown USA, and the U.S. Olympic Team track & field trials were held here in 2008-- the same week as our wedding). So there are obviously a lot of great resources for runners, including a fantastic locally owned running store.

Andy and I went there over lunch one day, and I got really excited about picking from the dozens of awesome-looking shoes on the wall. They had us each run shoe-less on the treadmill and video-taped our feet as we ran to see what, if any, correction we needed in a shoe (i.e. for my overpronation).

So the very serious-looking saleswoman went into the back and brought out a box with a pair of shoes for me to try. She opened the box, and sitting inside were the plainest, ugliest pair of boring white sneakers I ever did see. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm no shoe maven... I wish I cared more about fashion and shoes and style. But I am in love with color, and as long as there were yellow shoes on the wall, I sure as hell wasn't getting plain white.

So the conversation went a little like this:
Amy: So... um... is that the base model that you build off of? Or is that the exact shoe that I would need to get for my foot type?
Serious Salesgirl: I'm not sure I understand the question.
Andy: Let me translate. She wants to know if they come in pretty colors.

He knows me so well!

It turned out that my remedial shoes didn't come in extra special pretty colors, but I was fairly satisfied with eventual options, walking out of there with these.

Far More Important Than They Look

So far, especially with the addition of Superfeet, they're taking really good care of me. Maybe someday I'll get my yellow shoes!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Couch to 5k

The Couch to 5k is a training program designed for people who have never run before to train for a 5k race (3.1 miles).

The program is 9 weeks long, with 3 workouts per week, and it uses interval training (alternating running and walking) to build up endurance gradually and safely. We've been running on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and it's become a part of our weekly routine. No questions asked, no excuses, those are the days that we run.

Each workout has a 5-minute warmup and cool-down. We're lucky enough to live about 5 minutes away from a fantastic bark chip running path (in one of the best running cities in the world), so running outside is safe and convenient.

I'm not sure how people do this without the aid of the fabulous iPhone app. Come to think of it, I'm not sure how people live without an iPhone. But anyways, there are a few Couch to 5k apps on the market, but the one we use is made by Felt Tip Inc. You play your own music, and the app tells you when to run and when to walk, so you don't have to constantly be looking at the timer.

Since I'm very new to running, I run really slowly. Instead of getting ahead of myself and pushing my body farther than it wants to go, I'm just focusing on building endurance and getting through the timed runs feeling healthy, which this program really encourages. The times, distances, and speeds will come later, and I'm fine with that.

On Feet

One of the reasons that running hadn't occurred to me as an exercise option in the past (besides the fact that it's hard and it's considered "exercise") is that I have funky feet. They overpronate, which means that they turn in and my arches are flat, so I'm kind of knock-kneed.

Whenever I've had to walk really long distances or for an extended period of time, or stand up on figure skates (which I tried many times growing up, spending time at rinks watching my champion figure-skater little sister), and more recently on skis, my legs and especially my knees get fatigued really quickly. My theory is that it's because my feet are positioned improperly, my ankles can't quite support my legs like they should, and things sort of fall apart.

While I can't be certain, I'm pretty sure this is what caused my knee injury. Despite being fitted for special shoes at our local running store after being video taped running on a treadmill (a funny story for another day), I think I overdid it and the pressure was too much. I'm not a small girl, and my knees had to bear a lot of weight.

After my injury, Andy took me shopping at the medical supply store at our local orthopedic hospital. Every girl's dream, right? I got a knee brace (the ones at the drugstore didn't fit my chubby leg... humiliating) and some Superfeet insoles. I don't need the brace anymore (yay!), but the Superfeet will be staying in my running shoes permanently. In conjunction with my physical therapy exercises, I'm working on strengthening the muscles that have been dormant pretty much my whole life.

So even with a physical limitation that I used to think was a complete deal breaker, there are ways to work around and accommodate. No more excuses!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The One Where I Hurt Myself

I'm a total klutz. Not the kind that trips over things and spills her coffee every day, but more that I pretty much always have something inexplicable and completely random ailing me. These ailments vary from small nuisances to major, life-interfering problems, and they have historically served as a crutch and excuse for me not to exercise.

In the Fall of 2008, I hurt my back really badly. I had a herniated disc in my lower back which was compressing a nerve, causing numbness in my leg and foot in addition to crippling back and hip pain for months. I overcame the injury without surgical intervention, thanks to my physical therapist's expertise and positive attitude (and of course all the hard work that I did). That episode has caused me to be really careful about my body, but the motivation to get fit that I was hoping would appear after my injury hadn't materialized until now.

When I started running, I wasn't sure if/how it would affect my back, and I'm happy to report that it's holding up just fine.


A week and a half after I started training, in late December 2009, I sprained my knee. I didn't do anything specific to it, it just started hurting one day during my run. I was devastated that my newfound motivation was stopped dead in its tracks, but like anything else, this has been a fantastic learning experience.

I want to write in detail another time (or times) about how my knee has healed, what I think caused the injury, and exactly what I'm doing to strengthen my weak muscles and prevent any kind of future injury or re-injury. I've started back on the program and have just finished Week 2 of Couch to 5k, which is 2 runs farther than I got last time. I'm optimistic that, although I don't expect to be pain-free, I can do this. By improving my general health through exercise, I know I can greatly reduce the number of aches, pains, and ailments that I tend to experience on an almost daily basis, and I'm so excited for that.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Happiest Race on Earth

My whole 28 years, I've hated exercise. I've tried everything in the book, but have never been able to find a way to enjoy it. No matter what, it was an aversive chore that I dreaded, and virtually always opted to do anything else instead. A lifetime of that attitude and behavior has made me pretty unhappy with myself in a lot of ways, especially in the last 5 or 10 years. And after a lifetime of searching, I'm so happy to say that I've finally found that magic match that gets me off the couch and moving.

Against all odds, I am now a runner.

This year, I'm training my body and my mind for the Walt Disney World Wine & Dine Half Marathon. There is absolutely nothing more ideal in the world than a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, combined with a celebration of food and wine, to motivate the pants off of me.

I've started with the Couch to 5k program, designed to train people who have never run before, taking very baby steps since I've never done this before. I've surprised myself with how much I'm enjoying it, and I know that the structured, approachable nature of the program is what keeps me coming back 3 times per week.

I've already had some health and physical challenges, but I'm overcoming them with the help of my physical therapist. And of course, none of this would be any fun without my training partner and husband, Andy, who has far more faith in me than I have in myself at this point.

I'm so excited for the physical, mental, emotional, and social changes that are about to happen in my life because of my new hobby. I'm also looking forward to documenting my progression here. I considered keeping a private journal for myself so I can look back later and see how far I've come, but who am I kidding? Blogging is so much more fun!