Uh-Oh (it always helps to think about Beyonce)

Well tonight was my long run, and it felt amazing.  I know that 5 miles isn’t actually a “long” run in marathon terms, but it’s the longest I’ve run since last fall, so I insist on being proud of it.  And the best part is, I ran the whole thing and I’m not tired. 

Not only was this my longest run in months, but I skipped one of my workouts this week, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel today.  Joe and I took a couple days off and skipped town, and I was wayyyyy too disorganized to fit in all my workouts while we were traveling.  I really thought I could do it, and then I threw all of my plans out the window in favor of long walks on the beach and football games on the beach, and other awesome beach-related activities.  So while I wasn’t sitting on my butt all week, I still skipped a 3.5 mile run on Thursday night, and have been wondering if I’d be up for my 5 miler today. 

But in the end, I felt more then ready.  Today’s strategy was not to worry at all about speed, and just settle into a nice easy 10 minute mile pace.  In fact, I made it my goal to run steadily for 50 minutes, regardless of distance.  (See this really helpful post on minutes vs miles and training for marathons.  I definitely took this advice tonight.)  I really want my body to get used to maintaining aerobic activity for long periods of time.  So rather than focus on the mileage, I just relaxed and let myself jog at a comfortable pace.  And seriously, I felt like I could run forever.

Until my old friend, knee injury from last fall, decided to show up again. 

Seriously?

At about mile 4, my left knee suddenly felt like it was full of cement.  It just completely froze up and every step after that felt like there was a bunch of gravel filling up the entire joint.  This is the same feeling I had when I tore my meniscus last fall, and had to be sidelined from running for weeks…  this is a big deal, in the worst possible way.  This is a freak-out moment. 

Now that I’ve decided to run a half marathon in the fall and I’m really putting my mind to it, I am totally unwilling to stop running for even a few weeks, and I’m completely not ok with this happening right now.  So as soon as my knee started to hurt, I got this crazy sinking feeling in my stomach…  of course, I’m having an amazing run, I feel like a champ, so of course my knee has to get all messed up again. 

What’s a girl to do?

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1.  Yes, that’s right.  Think about Beyonce in the elevator and keep your sh*t together.  This may feel like the end of the world (yes it does, it really feels like that) but it’s NOT.  So calm down.

2.  Since I decided, for better or worse, to finish that last mile of my run, I put all of my energy and focus into maintaining perfect form.  As a nurse, I would probably advocate for stopping once the acute pain started, but I was not in nurse mode at this point, I was in stubborn me mode.  So instead of stopping, I thought about my core staying strong and keeping my hips aligned and not tightening up through my hip flexors, and I kept going with my focus on maintaining good form.  This actually helped a lot.  Whether it was a placebo effect or not, my knee hurt a lot less with each step, and my whole body felt more efficient.  I should think about my form every time I run, injured or not.

3.  Take a step back, and come up with a long term plan.  Now that my run is over, I’ve hobbled back home from the gym, (it hurts more to walk than it does to run) and I’m sitting with a huge bag of ice on my knee, it’s time to really face the situation.  My hubby and I are moving back to Canada at the end of the week, so logistically, the timing here is tricky.  But I think my next step once we’re home will be to see a Sports Medicine specialist or a Physio Therapist and really get to the bottom of what’s going on inside my knee.  And then…

4.  Tackle it.  Fix the problem.  Do whatever it takes to stay in shape and rehab my knee safely so that I’m back running as soon as I possibly can be.  Whether it’s doing a bunch of weird exercises every day to strengthen my knee, or getting my knee scoped, or doing all my training by running on my hands instead of my feet in order to stay in shape…  whatever it needs to be.  I’m determined not to slow down.  I will channel all of my current frustration into finding a solution.

Let’s end this post on a happy note.  Here is a picture of the beach from our little getaway this week.  🙂

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A testament to cross training, swallowing my elliptical pride, and discovering my true identity (Spoiler: It’s Female Benjamin Button)

My running plan has me increasing my mileage this week for the first time in my training.  Finally!  I feel like I’m making some progress!  I’ve been looking forward to this week ever since I started training, because it’s the first time I’m really pushing myself beyond what I was already capable of.  And while the increase in mileage is very verrrrry very small, (I’m going from 3 mile runs to 3.5 mile runs during the week, and from a 4 to a 5 mile run on the weekend,) my body is already feeling it.  More than little aches and pains, I’m actually exhausted and stuff is starting to not work.

Sigh.  I think I’m Benjamin Button.  It seems I have an old person body.

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I’m pretty proud of how tough I am, being a girl boxer and all (I say that with a heavy dose of irony), so I feel lame admitting this.  But I think I strained my right quad.  And so I’ve been hobbling around all week.

I’ve managed not to miss any of my workouts so far this week, because once I’m actually running, my leg doesn’t hurt all that much.  But I was supposed to box tonight, and I knew that would be way too much for me.  I had a hard time even walking home from work today, and all the side to side and pivoting movement involved in boxing would have been killer.  And like I said, not only is my leg dying, my whole body is just feeling rough today…  Like, feeling the fatigue of a slightly tougher training regimen, something that I’m not conditioned for yet.  It’s that extra half mile every night!  Damn you, half mile!  Who knew I could be so weak?!

So tonight at the gym, after running some boxing drills for Joe, I hopped on the bike and did some intervals for about 20 minutes.  Not super mega intense intervals, more like 80% of the effort I’d normally put in.  And after that, I did something I never expected myself to do…  I got on the elliptical (gasp!) and busted out another 15min of cardio, before hitting the mat for some ab work.

I have a long, complicated history with the elliptical machine.  There have been ellipticals in my life that have brought me long, intense and satisfying workouts at times when I was too injured to run…  And then there are these ellipticals.  The ones in the gym in our building.  For some weird reason, these machines do absolutely nothing for me.  I try cranking the incline and the resistance, I try going as fast as I possibly can…  I just can’t get myself to feel tired!  And the kicker of this is that the ellipticals seem to be the only machine that anyone in our gym ever uses!

This has led me to have a smug sense of gym-equipment superiority over all the people who get on these machines and essentially stand there while the elliptical goes around and around underneath their stationary feet while they stare at me all condescending like I’m a weirdo for having sweat pouring into my eyes while I run my butt off on the treadmill.

Well anyway, I should really check myself before I wreck myself here with this superior attitude I’ve been rocking towards the elliptical folk in my building.  Because tonight, feeling I had no other option, I ellipticalled.  Again, I cranked the resistance, hit the “interval” button, and (drumroll…) I actually loved it.  Something about how tired I already was before I even got to the gym, and having both my arms and legs moving at the same time, meeting with just the right amount of resistance, without feeling like I was ripping the quad muscle out of my right leg every time I took a step…  it was therapeutic.  I had a nice sweat going, it honestly felt great!

So I left the gym tonight feeling about nine million times better than I felt before I went.  I’m proud of myself for forcing myself to go, in spite of my low energy level, my total apathy, and having to take a copious amount of Advil just to be able to walk there in the first place.  And after I finished my workout, my leg actually felt significantly less awful.

Lovely.

P.S. I had the gym to myself tonight.  I love it when I have the gym to myself.

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See, look!  Empty!

Running for people who hate running

I love running.  I have always felt a lot more like ME, just sort of in general, when I`m consistently setting time aside to run.  Even when I’m engaged in other forms of exercise, running is special to me.  So when I read articles and blogs written by other people who like to run, it seems totally normal to me.

My husband, on the other hand, hates running.  Even back when we were just a couple of friends who boxed together, I was always pushing him to come running with me.  More like forcing him, actually.  We`d put in an hour of boxing drills and strength training, and then I`d drag him to the park to run stairs, with him protesting the entire time.

So imagine my surprise when, a few weeks ago, this very same man decided to pound it out on the treadmill at the end of a strength training day.

oprah surprise

Until recently, I’d been jogging a lot of 3-4 milers on a pretty regular basis.  I’m not a distance runner AT ALL, so before I started my half marathon training, 3 miles was a pretty average jog for me.  I’d come home and report my pace to Joe, and describe my run.  I think he finally just realized that, if it only takes 8 or 9 minutes to run 1 mile, maybe he would give it a try.  I think part of his motivation was his natural competitive nature, to see if he could match or beat my fastest pace, and part of it was to prove to himself that he can do anything he sets his mind to.  But at the end of his workout one day, he decided to run a mile as fast as he could and see how it felt.

This is actually a super cool way to think about running.  It’s like listening to Macklemore if you don’t like rap.  Or watching MMA because you “just can’t get into” boxing. There are some people who will never love long distances, who truly look at running as a means to an end, or as part of a training regime for another sport.  That’s totally cool.  You don’t have to love every second you spend running, but it can still be beneficial.

Joe has started consistently running 2 miles a few times per week. He’s tacked it onto his strength training days, when we’re not boxing.  He figures that, even if it hurts like hell, and it really sucks, it’ll all be over in 15 minutes or less, so how bad can it be?  And if he’s really hating it, well, the faster he runs, the sooner it ends.

I have to say, it hasn’t taken long to start seeing real results.  He’s cut his 2 mile time down significantly in a few short weeks, and his boxing has improved dramatically.  There are even times where I wonder if he’s starting to like it…  although he still refuses to ever train for a 5K.  🙂  And the results have been great for me, too.  I love it when I’m jogging away on the treadmill, and he hops on the one next to me and sweats it out with me for my last 2 miles.  If he hates running and he’s willing to do it anyway, I can do it too.  It’s totally motivating and awesome.

I guess the point of this is that you don’t have to absolutely just adore running in order to make it work for you.  But it might still be beneficial to try it…  run one mile and see how it feels.  See how fast you can do it, or if you can do it after a really tough workout.  Or maybe try it one day if you’re feeling sluggish and you need an excuse to get off the couch and get your blood flowing. Or, really, try it whatever your reason may be.

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So if you’ve never been a runner, and even if you never plan to become one, I dare you to just run one mile, one to two times per week, and see what happens.

8 ways to overcome workout inertia

Alright, so if anyone understands what it’s like to absolutely NOT WANT TO GO to the gym every once in a while, it’s me.  I’m one of these people who is amazing at staying disciplined, as long as I’m on a roll.  As soon as I take a day off, it’s all over…  So what happens after my rest day?  I sit around on the couch procrastinating and avoiding my next workout.  Often, it takes me a full 2 rest days to actually want to get back to the gym.  After one single day off, I always get a super terrible case of workout inertia…  so I’ve developed a few strategies to help myself overcome it and get back on that roll.

1.  Bargain with yourself.  Promise yourself to get out the door and run at least one mile, or head to the gym and put in at least 20 minutes.  Whatever your bare minimum is – something that doesn`t seem too intimidating so that you`ll be more likely get up and do it.  For me, it`s either 20 minutes of cross training or my favorite 3 mile jogging loop.  Walk or run, as long as I get out and do something, that`s better than nothing, isn`t it?  And guess what?  Once I’m at the gym, I almost always feel like doing a full workout after all. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting up and putting my running shoes on, but once I’m out the door, I’m back in the zone.

And that leads me to my next tip…

2.  Put your workout gear on.  After putting in upwards of 12 hours on my feet at work, once my shift is over, trust me, the last thing I want to do is get back on my feet and exercise.  It helps a lot if I come home and change directly from my scrubs into my running shorts…  otherwise, I end up in my pjs eating cereal for dinner and watching Harry Potter on my laptop.  If I already have my workout outfit on, I’m one step closer to getting out the door.  And there’s something psychological about it.  Like, hey, guys, look how serious I am about running today.  I have shorts on!  There’s no turning back!

3.  Develop a pre-workout routine.  For some people it’s a pre-running snack, a stretching routine, or a pre-running playlist.  Something that you do before every run, long or short, that gets you in the mood to exercise.  It helps a lot when you’re really not feeling super energetic, because you can just turn off your brain, stop overthinking it, and commence the pre-run routine.  One thing will lead to another, and you’ll be auto-piloting your body into running mode.  One of my classic faves:  Two eggs, one piece of toast, and a glass of milk.  (Yes, I drink TONS of milk, especially when I’m super thirsty…  I know it’s a little weird, people make fun of me all the time, but it works!)

4.  Watch YouTube!  Yes!  YouTube workout videos are the best!  There is just something about watching Floyd Mayweather training videos before heading to the gym and sweating it out in the ring.  (Joe and I have seen pretty much every episode of HBO 24/7 about a million times.)  Seeing someone else push themselves to the max while screaming “Hard work, dedication!” is extremely motivational.  I also recommend watching strength training demos on YouTube before heading out for a strength day.  I absolutely love learning new exercises, and watching other people do them makes me want to try them all immediately and start feeling that burn!  All work is easy work!

5.  Get a buddy!  Even if this person doesn’t physically run every mile with you, get someone to help keep you accountable to your training goals.  My husband knows what my goals are, and he works his training schedule around mine.  It’s great, because we can cross train together on cross training days, and lift weights together on strength training days.  (He hates running, but I am slowly converting him…  more on that later.)  It’s just extremely helpful to have someone else who believes in you when you feel like giving up.

5.  Reward yourself!  Joe and I love to cook huge, delicious meals after an intense boxing day.  I love to come home after a long run, take a nice warm shower, and then curl up with a big comfy blanket and some good ol’ Netflix.  I save my favorite songs for later in my running playlist as a little reward to myself as I get farther into my run.  Little things like this make a big difference to me…  Rewards are good.  And sometimes knowing you’ve got a steak waiting for you after your workout is enough to get you off that couch!

7.  Just do it.  Guess what?  Sometimes, running is tough.  If it was easy, everyone in the world would be running marathons and it wouldn’t mean anything anymore.  But let’s face it:  Hard things make us better.  Period.  So when you really just don’t feel like it, do it anyway!  You will discover that you can do it after all.  Even if it sucks.  Showing up is better than giving up.  20 minutes is better than 0 minutes.  And at the end of the day, the workouts you will be most proud of will be the ones you didn’t feel like doing.  Because you got off your butt, and did it anyway.

Having said that, I leave you with one very important reminder…

8.  Do NOT feel guilty about taking a day off!  Whatever you do, please, pu-LEASE do NOT ruin running by feeling bad about missing one workout here or there.  Guys, this is supposed to be fun!!  Sometimes, you actually need to rest more than you need to run.  Maybe you promised yourself you’d do 20 minutes at the gym, and you could only squeak out 15…  there’s probably a reason for that.  It could be that a good night’s sleep, some quality time with friends or family, or even a night out on the town, is actually what you need.  Life is about balance, and that probably means that you won’t work out 6 days per week every week until you die.  So if you take a night off, enjoy it!!!  Make the most of it so that the next day, you can pick up right where you left off, and not miss a beat.  Your running fitness can survive one missed workout, and maybe you need to put that time into life/love/work/whatever else for a day.

And those are my pointers!  Do you have any pearls of running wisdom that help you overcome your workout inertia?

 

Taking it slow, and my new pants!

Let me preface this post by saying one thing:  I am currently extremely poor.

I am not saying this to complain…  Yes, I’m poor, but I’m also extremely happy, so I wouldn’t want anyone to take that the wrong way.  But I will say that, while this is a temporary situation, the level of poorness in the ICU Runner household is pretty ridiculous.  I’m counting the days until I return to nursing so I can start taking overtime shifts at the hospital to finance shopping sprees, eating out, and all those other “extras” that we’ve been carefully foregoing all year long.

And because I’ve been abstaining from shopping for what feels like an eternity (but in real time is really only a few months), I was pretty freaking excited to get a new pair of running pants in the mail today!!

My previous pair have had a giant hole in the bum for months, but I just couldn’t bring myself to spring for a new pair.  I finally caved the other day, though, when I realized that the hole in my old pants can accommodate more than one of my fingers. It’s getting embarrassing.  (Maybe that explains the weird looks I was getting from that dude at the gym yesterday?)

And so today, look what arrived!!

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Alright, so thanks for indulging me there…  Now on to some serious talk.

The last couple of days, my body has been feeling pretty normal the day after my workouts.  I am intentionally taking it slow, because I’ve been warned so many times about the importance of sticking to my training schedule, and building up my mileage slowly so that my gains will be sustainable.  But I think I’m ready to kick it up a notch.  A couple weeks ago, running a few kilometers meant some pretty serious fatigue for the rest of the day, and a crazy, all consuming, borderline beast-like appetite.  But after a couple weeks of consistent training, I’m not hangry all the time anymore, and I’m not sore anymore.  I think my body is adjusting… and I’m getting a little anxious to bump my training up to the next level.

I know I’m training for a half marathon, not a sprint.  And I’m doing more than that, really, I’m building a more consistent, healthier lifestyle.  But sometimes I get impatient with myself and just want to skip ahead!

Does anyone else find it tough to take it slow?

 

Hangover Tuesday

I`ve mentioned in earlier posts that I`m an ICU nurse, but I haven`t explained that I`m currently taking a bit of time away from that and doing research.  I`ve been working 8 hour days, 4 days a week, sitting at a desk for the first time in my life.  This phase of my life is about to come to an end, when Joe and I move back to our lives and jobs in Canada at the end of the month, and we`re both back to our crazy healthcare clinician lifestyle. 

For now, I am a 9-5er, a lifestyle that doesn`t suit me nor has it ever appealed to me.  I`m actually looking forward to 12 hour night shifts right now, something that I never thought I`d say, just so I can be back inside an ICU again.  And with only 2 weeks left at my current job, I`m pretty much just DYING.  DYING to get back home!!

I woke up a little bit hungover this morning and I don`t think I fully shook it off.  I worked my usual day today but have to go back in tonight to facilitate a research project at 9pm.  So I had a whole 3.5 hours to make dinner, eat, run my 3 miles, and then shower and get ready to head back to work.  I decided just to run on the treadmill in our building`s gym so it would be a bit faster… 3 miles of hungover running and that`s another workout logged.  I have to say, it was just about survival today, but at least I did it.  I hated every second of that run, but I already feel so much better for it.

My time was actually kind of not bad, at least for me.  I think it`s because the guy on the treadmill next to me (who looked like a slightly younger version of the coach from Freaks and Geeks) kept nodding at me and trying to get my attention in the mirror. 

Not cool. 

Dude, I HAVE to look in that mirror, the whole wall is a mirror and I`m running on a treadmill that faces it.

So needless to say, I couldn`t get out of there fast enough.  I almost forgot to check my time at the end of my run, but I think it was 28:18. 

And now, after my hellish run with my aching legs silently cursing me for all those beers I had last night (legs, stop your complaining, it`s the playoffs!), I truly feel…  fantastic.  I will be about a million times nicer to my husband when get home from my evening of work tonight than I would have been if I`d just holed up in bed all evening, watching trashy TV and drinking Gatorade. 

And that is why I run.  🙂

Today’s workout log

First of all, I need to start by saying happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there.  🙂  I called my mom today, make sure you call yours!!

Today was the first day of the year where it was warm enough for me to sit outside in shorts and enjoy the sunshine.  Seriously, I think I probably have Seasonal Affective Disorder (you know, where you get a bit depressed during the winter months from lack of sunshine and Vitamin D), so as soon as the sun starts shining, I feel like a new person!!  Bring on summer!

I ran 4 miles today.  It felt pretty smooth overall.  I ran it in 37:47, so an average pace that was just a little faster than 9:30.  I felt super good until I was just past the 3 mile mark, when I started to feel a bit tired and my legs were starting to fatigue.  When this starts to happen, I always get super discouraged.  “How the hell do I think I can run 13.1 miles if I get tired running 4??!  It’s only been 30 minutes, and my legs are already tired?  How am I ever going to be able to run for 2 hours??!”  I was running at about a 9:15 pace at that point, so I eased up just a little bit and finished my last mile comfortably.  I just slowed down ever so slightly, and I felt like I could have run all day…  Then for the last couple of minutes, I brought the pace back up to under 9:00/mile.  I always try to push it for the last half to quarter mile or so.  When I finished, I felt completely silly for ever feeling discouraged or doubting myself, but I know I’ve got to work on strategies for dealing with those discouraging thoughts as I start to run longer distances.  

What do you do to keep going when you feel like you can’t run any farther?  

What are your favorite running mantras?