Thursday, December 31, 2009

Au Revoir 2009

As 2009 draws to a close, I have to say, this year rates as one of my best years ever! Among other good times, this was the year that kick started my journey to health and fitness. Here are the highlights:

These were low months...I'd been working out consistently for the past year without losing any weight. I felt defeated and was at my heaviest point ever. In February I went to the doctor and discovered that my cholesterol and blood pressure were both high. She advised me to start watching my diet in addition to exercising.

I had begun paying attention to my diet in addition to going to the gym 3 or 4 days a week to ride the bike or elliptical machine. I used an iPhone application called Lose It! to track my calories. I also bought my first pair of running shoes and decided to take part in the 20/20 Challenge hosted by Ash Is Fit as a way to be accountable. I also discovered the Couch to 5K program and started trying to incorporate running into my workouts. Boy, was it tough. The first time the program called for me to run 8 minutes without stopping, I thought I was going to die!

By the middle of April, I'd lost almost 10 pounds. I'd taken my running outside and was doing short run/walks in the park.

In May I was down 16 lbs. overall and was back into a size 10 jeans. The day that I had to go get new jeans because my old ones wouldn't stay up was a great day. All the "sacrifices" I thought I was making to live a healthy life were really really paying off. I'd also decided to sign up for a 5k race since I'd completed the C25k program and could now get that far running almost all of the time.

This month I'd lost over 20 lbs. and completed my first ever 5k in just over 34 minutes. I was elated after the race, and all i could think about was finding another and improving my time. This month, I started upping my mileage as well. I found I could run about 4-4.5 miles at a time and I was gradually getting faster!

In July, I continued to improve on my the point that I signed up for a 5k in September and a 10k in October! Most evenings, I went with B. to the park where he biked after work and would do my own run while he was working out. Even though it was hot, I found I had more strength than I'd ever imagined.

When August rolled around, I'd lost over 26 lbs. My size 10s were starting to get too big! I went to the doctor for a 6 month checkup--She was shocked at how much my weight was down. My blood pressure and cholesterol were also back down to normal.

This month, I ran a 5k in under 30 minutes, something that had been my goal going into the race. I felt invincible! Before the race, B. took this picture of me, and while I wasn't entirely happy with how I looked, I realized my body had drastically changed for the better.

The month began with purchasing my first pair of size 8 jeans in ages! Then came the 10k. I was incredibly nervous going in. I wanted to be able to run the whole time, but as I'd never fun a full 6.2 miles before, I didn't know if I had it in me. Plus, the morning of the race was a cold one, and I didn't really know how my body would function in such cold temps. Turned out, I love running in the cold! I ran the whole race and finished in just over an hour. By the end of the month, I'd set my next goal, a half marathon in April 2010!

In November, I ran the Girls on the Run 5k and improved my time by a few seconds from my race in September. I also began running much, much farther...By the end of November, my new "farthest I've ever run" was 8.5 miles! Pretty good for a girl who could barely run for 8 minutes straight a few months earlier! On the weight front, I was 35 lbs down with only 15 more to go. When my birthday rolled around this year, I recalled my 30th b-day the year before and how I cried getting ready to go out b/c I hated the way I looked. This year, I felt AMAZING! Not just thinner but strong and healthy.

This month has been rough...My weight has seemed to stagnate around 163 lbs., 13 away from my goal of 150 lbs. It also got blistering cold, and I've had to move my runs inside for the time being. I'm trying to make peace with the treadmill and still get mileage in. I don't want to lose endurance between now and when it gets warm enough to get back outside and start focusing on 13.1 miles before April. This month, I've also started speculating on whether I can be prepared to run the Chicago marathon in October 2010 and if that's something I really want to commit to. Registration starts on Feb 1, so that decision will need to be made before I've even completed my half marathon...more news soon!

So, as you can see, it's been quite a year. If I had one word of encouragement to any of you who want to get fit but feel stuck or overwhelmed by the prospect: If I can come this far, you can absolutely do it. Commit and make 2010 your year. It's life-changing and worth it!

I'm super excited for all the challenges 2010 holds. I've joined a v-ball league, I'll be running, running, and running some more. And I WILL get rid of those last pesky pounds! Speaking's time to get in my last workout of 2009--Jillian's calling!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Themed Holiday

Last week was Hanukkah,and B. and I celebrated with one gift per night. Most of mine were running related (suprise, suprise). I got:
A Brooks Vapor Dry 2 headband:

A pair of Brooks Vapor Dry 2 gloves:

A Saucony DryLete skull cap:

A fuel belt for long runs:

A new iPod armband:

And the runner's best friend, a massaging foot spa:

Yesterday, despite the 20 degree temps, I suited up in all my new finery to go for a run...I was trying for 9.5 miles.

(There's no excuse for this cheezy smile...)

Sadly, even with my cold weather gear, it was just TOO cold for me. I've really enjoyed running in cooler temps. My body seems to work so much better at 40-50 degrees than at the higher temps from this past summer. But, apparently around the 20 degree mark is when I need to move it inside (at least for now). The wind was just too cold on my face and made it hard to breath, and I felt like my muscles/joints never really warmed up. So after 2.5, I was back home. Something to work on.

Any more seasoned runners out there have tips on how to improve the experience of running in very cold weather?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I Think They Call This Cross-Training

If I could run every day, I absolutely would. But, I know my body, especially my battered knees and hips, and know that every other day is the best for me. That leaves the other days for cross-training. Generally, I do weight/cardio circuits or ashtanga yoga and call it cross-training.

One of my getting fit goals, though, has been to find a volleyball league when I was thin/in-shape enough. However, all the ads I saw for leagues at the YMCA or parks & rec places required an entire team to sign up. No one I know (who lives nearby) is very interested in volleyball. So, a while back, I decided to check the Craig's List activity section to see if anyone was advertising for an extra player for their ready-made team.

Long story short, I finally found one that sounded like a winner, and this past Monday, I went to an unofficial practice. I have not touched a volleyball in about 5 years. Let me tell you, I was nervous. Not only about meeting a bunch of new people but about not looking like a complete moron in front of said new people. I was rusty to say the least, but over the course of the evening, while we played 3 on 3, I managed a few good passes, sets, and even a hit and serve or two. Beneath the rust, I think there may be an inkling of skill left, and I can't wait for my next opportunity to play.

By the time I got home from practice, I knew I was going to be sore...My left knee was in need of ice after a poorly performed dive. I wasn't ready for what awaited me when I woke up the next morning. My back was SO sore. Not my shoulders/shoulder blade area. Not my lower back, even. But, in two vertical strips in the middle of my back on either side of my spine. The area of pull when you serve or hit. The area that apparently none of my weight lifting or other cardio activities even touches. Crazy!

I'm all better this morning, though. I'm definitely going to start thinking about other activities I can try to keep my body on its proverbial toes. What ways do you cross-train that surprises your body?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Playing in Traffic

First things first...Saturday I did a "long" run of 9 whole miles. It's my new "farthest I've ever run". 13.1, I'm coming for ya!

While I was on this run, I was feeling pretty charitable toward the human race as a whole. I was thinking how great it was to live in a city where the motorists really seem to respect runners and bikers (excluding city buses, of course. They'll hit you without thinking twice whether you're on foot or a tricycle...). Several times as I neared the curb to cross the street, a car would pause a beat longer so I wouldn't have to stop. Wydown Blvd. has a fabulous double-wide bike path on both sides of the street, and no one pulls the "I think I'll pass this slow car in the bike lane" bit. People turning right wait (as they should) to let the pedestrians use the walk sign before turning. I was pleasantly surprised that StL drivers (some of the dumbest in the world, in my opinion) seemed to be tacitly cheering me on with their motor vehicle kindness...

Fast forward to this morning. I went for a run that takes me (mostly on sidewalk) through this enormous condo complex. Usually drivers there are pretty decent. Not this morning. Old lady in the blue Civic, did you really swerve at me, seriously?? To the 7 cars waiting to turn right at the McCutchon light, it's customary to let the pedestrian cross when the little walk figure is blinking, and btw, USE YOUR BLINKERS!!! And, skeevy dude in the red truck, we've been over this's absolutely unnecessary to honk at me. I know I look awesome w/ my pony tail tucked into my wicking beanie like it's a swim cap.

Lack of faith in humanity restored!

Positive note? I get to play volleyball for the first time in like 5 years tonight. I'm so excited it's ridiculous--and it's just a team practice. Imagine what I'll be like when it's game time!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Running w/ Garmin

Saturday was my first run with my new Garmin Forerunner 405 gps/hrm watch. Full disclosure: I spent a good two hours playing with the watch and trying out the functions detailed in the owner's manual earlier in the week. Since I started running in earnest back in March, I've worn a regular sports watch to track the time (You've seen how accurate that was in my estimated race times...) and used the map feature of to figure out distance. I had virtually no idea what my heart rate was. So, I was excited to know my stats for real and was hoping knowing what my pace was would inspire me to kick it up a notch!

Reviews I've read of Garmin watches said that sometimes it takes awhile to get GPS from the satellite. But, so far, I haven't had any problems. When I was first setting up the watch, the instructions said I'd have to go outside to get a satellite connection. Not so. I pressed the GPS button intending to look at the menu and go outside later. Seconds afterward, the GPS signal indicator showed up on the watch face. The two times I've been out with the watch, it's taken no more than a minute or so to get going. I haven't tried it out at the gym yet, but I'm hoping I can use the watch w/o having to order the foot pod.

The training mode features are amazing. Seriously, this watch does everything I've ever wanted to know during a workout. For my first run, I set up a Simple workout mode to run 6.5 miles. There's another mode, Interval, that you can use to set up your warm up and cool down walking portions as well as the run, but I couldn't remember exactly how to do that without breaking out the manual again. I was really excited to see that there was a setting for the watch to pause when I stop running. So, all those stop lights won't be screwing up my time anymore. That feature takes a few seconds to kick in and another few seconds to return to workout mode, but overall, it did a nice job.

I set the watch to scroll through my pace, time, and heart rate. The watch was already defaulted to include the "Virtual Running Partner". This screen shows two figures, you and your buddy, and shows how far ahead or behind you are depending on the pace set for the virtual partner. Apparently, my virtual partner was set to a much faster past, b/c he left me in the dust. In the future, I'll probably turn that feature off. But, overall, I loved knowing how many miles I'd gone and how fast I was moving. It really helped me keep a steady pace. That's something I'm having to work on: slowing down when I'm trying to run farther distances. I tend to start out too fast and get tired in the end.

I decided to try out the heart monitor on my first run as well. I've never worn one, and I was concerned that I wouldn't like the feeling of something strapped around my rib cage while I was running. But, it turned out to be pretty comfortable. Except for the time that it came unhooked when I yanked on my shirt, I didn't even know it was there. The read out seemed pretty accurate, based on heart rates I've taken myself at the gym. However, on Monday morning, I went for another run with the heart monitor on. I don't think I wetted the sensors good enough b/c the readouts during that run were really off. It said my average heart rate was 37...My resting is around 60, so I know those numbers were way off. I intend to try it again on my next run and see what happens.

Probably the most fun part of the watch is transferring the data to the Garmin Connect program. For each workout, I see a map of my path (and can even watch it as a video). I can see my overall calories burned, heart rate, speed, distance, etc. And I can also see the splits for each mile. I'm a nerd, and I love charting my progress, so this is a lot of fun.

Do you need a Garmin? It depends. I'm not sure I really "need" a Garmin. But, my goal is to be a "real runner" someday. And, I'm a perfectionist, so I want to be a good runner. The information I'm getting from this watch motivates me to improve, so in that way I'd recommend a Garmin for others with similar personalities. They're a little expensive, but if you look around (I got mine on Amazon), you can find some great deals. If you're a distance runner or competitive, a Garmin is the ultimate running accessory, second (in my opinion) only to an iPod.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Negative Reinforcement

Let's take a trip down memory lane to Psych 101...remember the rats who could be taught to perform a behavior for a food reward, or Pavlov's dogs who learned it was dinner time when they heard the bell? All positive reinforcements....

Lately, I'm more like the rats who were taught not to do something on pain of electric shock. For the last three weeks or so, since it's really gotten cold, after I get back from a run (and sometimes after an indoor cardio workout), I've been getting blinding headaches, sometimes full blown migraines. While I'm running I feel great. When I stop running and cool down, I feel great. Then half an hour to an hour later, I'm in tears b/c my head feels like someone drove a stake through my temple.

It could be allergy/sinus related b/c when I run, regardless of the temperature, my sinuses go nuts. But that wouldn't explain the migraines really. I think I'm well hydrated in general, and I drink a little water before I go out and drink when I get back. I don't usually eat anything before I run b/c I cramp if I do, but I eat within the hour of getting home. Not sure what else to do. Or, what to do differently.

I have a doctor's appt. in less than a month, so ideally I'll be able to hang on until then, but the migraine I had this morning made me two hours late for work, so I might have to suck it up and make an appt. sooner rather than later.

Any other runners out there have similar issues? What did you do to fix the problem?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Highs & Lows

I had my best run EVER on Thanksgiving morning. I woke up earlier than I intended thanks to my rascally little kitten, so I had time for a long run before heading out to my parents' house. It was a cold morning, but I bundled it up and took off. My original plan was a 6.5 to 7 mile loop from my house to Forest Park and back. Somewhere along Skinker, I thought, what in god's name am I doing?? But, by the time I reached the top of my neighborhood, I felt awesome and decided to take the back way through the neighborhood and take a quick spin through Shaw park. One hour and 35 minutes later I was done running. Could I have gone longer? Maybe, I don't know...I couldn't feel my knees anymore, so possibly. I mapped the course out on MapMyRun's website and was shocked to discover that I'd gone 8.5 miles. My farthest run to date! Makes me feel like 13.1 isn't such a distant goal.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving I came down with a wretched cold that's been plaguing me all week. I'm drinking fluids, taking vitamins, and all that good stuff, but my throat has been raw and overall I've just felt crappy. And...I've only worked out once this week. I did my No More Trouble Zones dvd on Tuesday and was WAY more winded than usual during. The other mornings I've slept in. I feel guilty because my eating has been awful since Thanksgiving. I'm like an addict...I really can't have "just a taste" of decadent foods...b/c then I want them ALL the time. Pie, candy, ice cream, name it, I've been craving it, and since I haven't been feeling good, I've used that as an excuse to comfort myself with junk. Feeling gross and NOT looking forward to weigh in this Friday. I'm sure I've gained a few pounds. And, there's nothing worse than losing weight you already lost once. What a waste of time!

On a positive note...I order a Garmin Forerunner 405 gps/heart rate monitor watch with my birthday money and got an awesome deal on Amazon. It arrived moments ago. I'm about to break open the manual and get this puppy going. Have a feeling I'll be feeling motivated to run in the VERY near future! Yay!