Sunday, September 11, 2011

How It Works

This morning I went for a bike ride, something I haven't done in a long time. I started out at Creve Coeur Lake park, but the path around the lake was clogged by people strolling along (sometimes 4 or more shoulder to shoulder...). So, I took the offshoot trail that follows the Page extension out to the Katy Trail. Other than the grasshoppers the size of chihuahuas, it was an amazing ride. When I got to the parking lot for the Katy Trail, I thought about turning around and heading back, but it was such a beautiful day that I wanted to keep going. That meant heading down the steep hill to the trail and riding there. No biggie...Coming back up the steep hill would be another story. I made it up last summer, but last summer I was living in the body of a marathon training fitness fool. This summer, I'm somewhere south of there. Could I do it?

For lack of photographic evidence, see my Garmin elevation map...The two spikes were going down the hill and coming back up.

I worried about it the whole ride out, making sure not to go too far that my legs would be too tired to carry me back to the lake afterwards. I rode a couple of miles out and then turned back. When I arrived back at the hill, I shifted gears and started peddling with purpose, I made it up the first switch back easily. I managed the second, even though I had to slow down significantly for a family with small children weaving between lanes. The third rise towered above me...and I made it to the top without getting off to walk. At the parking lot, I paused for a second to drink some water and let my hammering heart catch up. I had done it.

On the ride back to my car, I thought about how succeeding at something hard makes all the other difficult things in a day seem possible. It's strange that the euphoria of a physical feat transfers to easily to other areas of life. But, for me it does. That's why I run. It can be a marathon or thirty minutes around the neighborhood. Pushing myself and conquering the miles, hills, tired legs, reminds me that other obstacles are manageable too.

Do one difficult thing every day. You might not succeed every time, but each time you'll get closer to your goal, and on the days you do succeed, you'll realize that the improbable, the impossible, has become your reality.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Journey

This morning it was tough to get up when my alarm started buzzing at 5:20 a.m. "Why can't we be skinny and healthy by magic?" I muttered to B. I hit snooze more than once, but in the end, I made it out the door for yet another day.

And what a beautiful day it was. The sun wasn't officially up, just a pink glow on the eastern horizon. And, the air was gloriously cool. What a day for a run!

My legs were tired, my Achilles was tight, but I chugged along on the less hilly of my usual routes. On my way home from the out-and-back route, I saw this lady that I see almost every morning. She's 70+ if she's a day. Her run is more of a quick shuffle (but then, hey, so is mine). And, she's out here EVERY morning working it out.

Depending on the day, her presence inspires a different set of thoughts for me...
Thought 1: Fitness is a lifelong battle. I'm going to have to do this FOREVER, even when I'm 70.
Thought 2: Being fit and healthy is a blessing. I hope I get to be out here running when I'm 70.

There's no end to this journey. Sure we might start with a goal weight, a special occasion, a certain dress size in mind. But when we reach that goal, we haven't reached the end of our journey. I can look at that fact with despair (usually when I'm half asleep with my alarm blaring in my ear) or joy. So, on this Wednesday, here are a few things I appreciate about the journey without end:

  1. I appreciate that ceasing to move means going backward to a place I don't want to go. Therefore, every step forward is forward momentum in the right direction, whether it's walking, running, biking, or stationary on my yoga mat.
  2. I appreciate how I feel when I come home, dripping sweat, tired in an entirely different (wonderful) way than when I was trying to get out of bed. 
  3. I appreciate how early morning exercise changes the way I experience and adapt to the stress of the workday.
  4. I appreciate the feeling of knowing I made a good choice and the accompanying desire to build on that good choice with others.
  5. I appreciate that there may come a day when I'm unable to go out for a morning run, but this morning isn't that day. Today I can run. And, with my elderly runner as inspiration, I hope the decision of "today I can run" continues for many, many days into the distant future.

What do you  appreciate about your healthiness journey?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Real Life

Moving, home ownership, changing job roles with a lot more responsibility, travel for said life has changed drastically since last summer when I was coasting by. I can't imagine training for a marathon this summer like I did last summer (partially because of the 20 day, yes I said 20 day, excessive heat warning).  I'm contemplating a half marathon in November but still haven't convinced myself that sending in my entrance fee wouldn't be a waste of money. Luckily, I have until October to decide.

Real life is messy, busy, chaotic even. So, to that end, I've been working on what a healthiness lifestyle looks like in my current version of "real life." For me, that means fresh fruit and vegetables, light healthy lunches, lots of water, and working out about 5-6 days a week. A couple of those days are yoga/strength workouts mixed in with a bike ride or two. I've been running 3-4 days a week, usually during the weekdays before I leave for the office. How far have I been running? I have time for about 3 or 4 miles without making myself late. It was hard for me to admit to people at first. I read a ton of running blogs, and so many of them are gearing up for distance races: Hood to Coast, IronMan, various marathons. People would ask, "What are you training for?" Nothing. "How far are you running these days?" Not very. These kind of runs don't make for very interesting blogs...

But, I'm slowly becoming okay with my frequently short runs. Distance running isn't the only way to run. My current plan works for my life right now. I'm still running regularly (and in this heat that in itself feels like a victory). As life twists and changes, so will my running. All I know is I'll still be out there.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Change of Scenery

I know blog posts have been sporadic at best lately...Well, I have a decent excuse--I've been busy. Real busy!
Cherry Blossoms' runs will soon be experiencing a change in scenery...B. and I are now proud homeowners (or we will be on closing day). I'm super excited about the house and painting and buying new furniture (and getting out what has become a very loud apartment complex). In about a month we'll be moving a few minutes farther west, and with the move comes new running routes to explore. You know how much I love running in the Clayton, Brentwood area. I love the extra wide bike lanes and the lush tree-lined residential streets. I adore Forest Park. And, I will certainly miss my old favorite go-to routes, the ones where I could predict which people I'd pass based on the time of day I went out. But, I'm very excited to map some new routes and explore my new neighborhood on foot!

In the intervening weeks since my last post, yes, I've still been running. I'm getting up early before work and doing 3-5 miles on most days. I love being up early when the sun is just rising and feeling like I've accomplished a ton by the time I sit down at my desk for work. The half marathon was...well, miserable. Because of unseasonably hot humid weather, they ended up calling the marathon off. The heat really affected me, and my time wasn't even as good as last year's. Oh well. You can't control the weather in the Midwest, I suppose. My next up-coming race is a the Zoo fundraiser 5k. If you recall, it was my first ever 5k two years ago. This year I'm running it with my very speedy sisters. I am still trying to regain my speed (if it could ever be called that), but my sisters are hoping to place in their age groups! It's awesome to have a family that you can be active with! Can't wait!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Trying to Get Excited for Race 1 of 2011

I'm scheduled to run the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon again this Sunday. Last year at this time, I was unbelievably excited--it was to be my very first distance race. I couldn't stop planning what I would wear and imagining how the day would go. This year...well, let's just say, if I hadn't already paid (making it a waste of money not to go), I'd stay in bed on Sunday morning. Why aren't I excited about it this year? I wish I knew. Maybe because it was originally supposed to be a marathon, and because my training work ethic was lousy during the winter months, I'm not ready to do 26.2 and downgraded to the half. Maybe it's because it's the exact same boring race course as last year. I mean, really, you couldn't switch it up a little bit? Or, maybe it's because when I run a race of a similar length,  I always want to beat my time (2:18 in this case), and I don't know if that'll happen this time. I'm hoping for a modest 2:15. We'll see.

But, it's not all about me. I might not be excited about my own race, but I'm psyched for a Facebook friend who is doing the half for the first time ever. It's part of her getting healthy and fit journey, and I'm so excited for her to get the chance to prove to herself how far she's come. Good luck, Mel!

In other news, if you'd like to follow me or any of the other racers, you can do it by clicking here. My bib number is: 2591

Monday, March 14, 2011

Review: 6 Week 6 Pack

I've been meaning to post this forever...

I ordered 6 Week 6 Pack from Amazon back in November when it first came out. I was hopeful for a good product but skeptical since Yoga Meltdown was such a flop. I was in luck...
6 Week 6 Pack is awesome!

The dvd contains a Level 1 and Level 2 workout. The idea is you will do the Level 1 workout 4 to 5 times a week for 3 weeks and then move up to Level 2. Have I done this? No. I just can't do the same video that many times a week. Plus, I don't have that many days set aside for strength. So, I haven't gotten my six pack just yet. However, my abs have noticeable definition that they didn't quite have before.

My gripe about most strength training dvds is that they focus mostly on legs and arms with minimal attention to the core. Or, they focus on upper ab and oblique moves and virtually ignore the lower abs and lower back. And, those are the ones I need to strengthen to help with my hip issues. But, 6 Week 6 Pack takes an approach to abs that I haven't seen in many other dvds. There are a variety of standing exercises and ones that start in Plank position in addition to the usual on-your-back stuff. The intermediate and advanced moves frequently use a 3 to 5 pound dumbbell for resistance, which I love. Both Level 1 and 2 have 2 circuits in a 30 minute workout. The warm-up starts much more active than I'm used to...I'll admit I was worried jumping into aerobic movements so quickly, but I haven't experienced any soreness or injuries from it. Jillian is backed up by 2 girls, one doing the advanced version of the moves, and the other the beginner (Jillian demos the intermediate moves). And, let me tell you, the advanced moves are TOUGH! Even  Level 1, which I thought I'd totally have in the bag, left me panting and sweating.

Even though I'm not doing the multi-time per week plan, after I'd done Level 1 a dozen times or so (and didn't feel quite so much like dying at the end), I moved on to Level 2. Holy Ouch! When Jillian says she's kicking it up a notch, she's so not kidding! Ever heard of a Plank Mogul? Neither had I. Picture yourself in a plank...Now picture jumping your feet to the right and landing them as close to your arms as you can get before hopping them back to plank. Then you go to the left. And then the right...over and over.  By the end of the second circuit, I was so glad this workout was only 30 minutes because it felt harder than most of my 45 to 60 minute videos. At one point, Jillian says, "Push--I want you to walk away from this workout visibly smaller." I don't know about "smaller," but I can definitely see the muscle definition popping after I'm done. It makes it just a little easier to pop that dvd in again next time, despite the muscle burning agony.

There's one more thing I love about this dvd compared to other abs-only workouts. The moves combine a LOT of legs and chest/arms. There are moves that use lunges and squats, as well as arm movements with weights (over head, side to side), not to mention all the moves that use some form of plank. I can walk away from the workout feeling like I got some good work in on my whole body, not just the abs. The only thing I wish it had more of would be lower back. Level 1 has two sets of Supermans, but Level 2 doesn't do any targeted lower back work, which is disappointing because a strong lower back is so crucial to a balanced core. Not to mention that's where my extra poundage likes to hang out. 

Overall, a total recommend for this dvd. My ultimate goal is to be able to do both Level 1 and Level 2 back to back. It's also short enough that once your endurance improves, you can throw it on the end of a short run for a really great day's work. It's currently less than $10 on Amazon. Definitely worth taking a chance on!

Monday, February 28, 2011


Last week when one of my favorite bloggers Endurance Isn't Only Physical wrote about the Reset Theory, it resonated with me. Long story short, she had noticed how some of the healthy eating habits she'd worked so hard to build were slipping, and she decided to take back control on that slippery slope. Boy, do I feel that.

I started my healthiness journey about 2 years ago. I went from 198 pounds down to a momentary low of 158 (still 8 pounds shy of my goal weight). Right now (and for about the last 4 months) I've been hovering right around 166. What happened? Marathon training happened. For the first time, I was expending the kind of energy that had to be refueled. I went from being able to keep my calories in a weight loss mode to be famished all day every day. Could those all have been healthy calories? Of course, but it was all too easy for me to justify the pizza, the ice cream, and the burgers when I'd just burned something like 1500 calories on a long run. Worst of all, when marathon training was over, I found it incredibly difficult to slip back into an appropriate calorie intake for someone who wasn't running 40 miles a week.

And, here I am. Still "healthy," still fit, but not comfortable with those extra pounds. I don't need them. Running would be easier and less painful without them. So, I need to refocus, reset if you will. I need to find the frame of mind I was in two years ago when I lost 40 pounds. How did I do it? On the exercise front, I worked out 5 to 6 days per week, including cardio, strength, and flexibility sessions.
Food-wise, I:
  • Stayed within my daily calorie range, religiously.
  • Measured and weighed my portions carefully (not fun, but it sure did the trick).
  • Avoided eating fast food, and when I had to eat out in general, I carefully researched what I could eat there that was reasonable.
  • Ate lots of fruit and veggies and not a lot of meat.
All that is what I'm recommitting to until I lose these last 16 pounds. I've met all the other goals I've set for myself--Why should this one be any different? I'm going to record my beginning measurements and get back to work. Until that goal is reached, half marathons are the longest race I'm signing up for. I can train for a half without turning into a giant blob of hunger. When I reach my goal, I can re-evaluate...although I can definitely tell you that the next time I attempt a marathon, I will make the time to see a nutritionist, even if it is expensive.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One in a Million

Just when I think I'm losing my running mojo, the weather gets warmer, the snow melts a little, and I can't get enough of footfalls on pavement. I get tired but don't want to stop moving through the cool, crisp air. I'm back, people! I know it's only February and it's going to get cold again, but I'm relishing every single moment of our pre-spring.

I always complain about drivers who don't pay attention to cyclists, pedestrians, and runners. So, I thought I'd take a moment to appreciate a driver today, who though he didn't see me at first, made up for it afterwards. I was on a late evening run today; it was twilight. I was on the sidewalk that runs in front of our local high school. As I neared one of the entrances, I saw a small, red car coming up fast to its stop sign from the parking area. I was fairly certain that the driver didn't notice me (I kind of always assume the driver doesn't see's saved me many a close call). So, while I was still moving tentatively into the crosswalk, I was prepared to stop. The car screeched up to the stop sign and was about to go...I paused...and then the driver saw me. He held up his hand in a guilty wave, and I finished crossing. I didn't really think anything about it...after all, it was getting dark.

So you can imagine my surprised when his car pulled up along side of me. "Hey--SO sorry about that back there. I've really got to watch what I'm doing. Just felt bad." "No problem," I responded, "I was paying attention for you." Wow--instead of flipping me off or yelling out the window at me, he apologized. I ran on my way with smile. With a little consideration for each other, runners and drivers CAN get along!

Looking forward to another decent weekend and getting some more miles in! Be safe out there!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I really wish this event wasn't the weekend before the Go! St. Louis marathon. I'd LOVE to try the "long" distance duathlon!

I'm also trying to coerce B. into joining me for this off road team triathlon in 2012 (plenty of time to train!):

Have you tried multi-sport events?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Full That Became a Half

In December, I signed up for the Go! St. Louis race again, this time to run the full marathon (I ran the half last year). I was a smidge late getting started on training, but things started out okay. Then it got super cold. Work life turned insane. Then I got sick. Then it stayed super cold. Let's just say, 10 miles is the most I've finished in one session. Every weekend would roll around and I'd be unable to fathom spending 2 or 3 hours out in the frigid temps. What about the gym, you ask? Let me tell you...The gym I go to has 10 treadmills. 10...And, to use them, you sign up for a 30 minute time slot, one 30 minute session at a time. So, after 30 minutes you have to get off the treadmill and go see if you can sign up again for that machine, or if you need to switch machines, or worse yet, do something else while you wait for another chance to use one. Then there's the fact that 8 miles on a treadmill is all I can manage before I'm so bored I could die. All these factors were turning running into a chore, not a joy. I hated feeling like a failure b/c I couldn't seem to get my miles in. I  hated getting my miles in but dreading every second of it. So, I made a decision: I'm going to run the half in April instead of the full. 

I won't lie. It was a tough decision. There's the knee-jerk part of me that thinks "Don't be a quitter!" (I'm pretty sure this is actually my dad's voice in my head). But, running is supposed to be fun. And, for me, running on a treadmill just isn't fun. It's misery. I don't want the exercise I love to become a dreaded chore. Running when I can (including the occasional treadmill speed workout) until it gets warm is the best choice I can make to keep from burning myself out on my favorite activity. Once that's over, I'll think about the possibility of signing up for a full in the fall. But, I make no professional life is undergoing a major period of growth/change, and that's got to be the focus of most of my energies for now.

I felt immediately relieved after I made my decision. In fact, I had the best run I'd had in a long time on Saturday. It was in the 30s, so I went for a snowy run. It was a little like running on the beach in the places where the snow was still loose over the sidewalk and like an obstacle course people had walked and the snow had frozen in hills and valleys around the footprints. It was a great time. Just like a run should be.