Friday, February 27, 2009

Is winter over yet?

I woke up to an ice skating rink today. We are in the fun part of the transition from winter to spring where it gets warm during the day, snow melts, the roads and sidewalks get wet, it gets cold over night and the water on the roads and sidewalks freeze, and I have to walk like I'm saddle sore to avoid slipping and falling. No fun at all. I am so so so ready for it to be spring.

In other news...

We got our Girl Scout cookies today- one box each of Thin Mints and Carmel Delights. I've wanted to eat one (box) all day, but I know I'll never be forgiven if the boxes don't come home intact.

We saw Man on Wire last night. Very suspenseful considering the guy is being interviewed for the movie so he obviously didn't fall to his death. It's also proof that good movies do not need to be more than an hour and a half long (which is the length of my attention span).

Working out had been good. I'm starting to realize that afternoon workouts actually do energize me. I was afraid they were making me too tired, but no, sitting on my butt all afternoon was what was making me too tired. So I'm going to try to keep up and add more easy workouts in the afternoon.

So what have I been doing this week:
M: Run am, swim PM
T: Spin/strength am, run easy PM
W: Run am, swim PM
R: Spin/strength am
F: Run easy am

And the plan is
S: Run 60 min with some hills
U: Bike trainer and run easy

Again I'm very hopeful for getting outside to run tomorrow. I think as long as I go late enough for the ice to have a chance to melt, I should feel confident enough to run outside. I really really really need to get out if I want to succeed at my 1/2 marathon in May, but I really really really don't want to bust it on ice.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What real women look like

Disclaimer: I've been thinking about posting on this subject for awhile, but I've held off because I didn't want to come across as well... creepy. So please don't read anything weird into this. I mean it in the least creepy way possible.

Reading today's post on The Great Fitness Experiment about How to Recognize a Healthy Human, I started to think about how we form our ideas of what an ideal, healthy (if those things aren't mutually exclusive these days) body looks like.

Like Charlotte says in her post, I at least have formed my opinion of the ideal female form by looking at pictures of women in fitness and fashion magazines. And, even though I know those pictures are Photoshop-ed, and that the women who appear in them may be far from fit and healthy, they are pretty much all I've had to go on. I don't have a sister, and I've never been on a sports team, so I've never spent time with other women in a state of undress.

So we come to this year... the shower... in the gym. The gym here has an open shower, and working out there before work 3x per week has forced me to suds up with approximately 239 other women ranging in age from 17-70. It's the first time I've ever seen real women- presumably healthy women because they are exercising- without clothes on.

And what I've found is not what I was led to expect. The World, Our Culture, The Media- choose your big nameless evil entity- is not kind to women's bodies. This is what we're shown real women should look like. I for one, have yet to see a single six pack in the gym. Definitely no sinew-ey arms ala Madonna. Healthy women- women who have jobs and children, who exercise but not excessively, who don't eat raw vegan, or take steroids or HGH- are soft. From the sorority girls with the Pink booty shorts to women who could be my grandmother, all real healthy women have some padding. And probably some cellulite.

Far from being uncomfortable having to bare all in front of a bunch of strangers, it's comforting to learn that my body is not bad or wrong after all. When I think back on the times I spent being most unkind to my own body, I realize that it at least part of it was because my concept of what was ideal and healthy ranged from nonexistent to completely unrealistic.

I hope writing about seeing other naked women in the gym didn't offend anyone's latent Puritan sensibilities too much. But I don't think there's anything wrong with discussing the fact that- as a culture (whatever)- we've truly lost touch with what is beautiful and natural. I know this is true for men, too, but I'm not a man, so I can't speak to that.

Anyway, the take home point- a point that I definitely need to remind myself sometimes- is that pictures in magazines don't reflect what real women look like, and looking like a real woman is not a personal failing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I am le tired

Tuesday's Workout: 60min of spinning and leg strength training
Wednesday's Workout: 6mi run with 5x3min fast, 1/2 hour swimming
Today's Workout: 45min spinning and upper body/ core strength training.

I always kind of hit the wall on Thursdays. It's just my tired day. After three hard days working out, I'm ready to crash. It's a good thing that Thursday is my TV night. My Name is Earl, Kath and Kim, and The Office are perfect combination of stupid and funny for a relaxing evening. I know you're supposed to "Turn off the TV and live every day to the fullest," but honestly, that sounds exhausting. Being a total couch potato for an hour and a half every Thursday is much more my speed.

A few other things in brief:

1. We made the sweet and sour crockpot chicken (moderate success- chicken was very soft and tasty, but the sauce didn't work so well- I think we let it cook too long) and the smoky refried bean soup turned out really well (I put in twice as much seasoning as called for in the recipe). Yay for easy, tasty meals.

2. Someone took my towel at the pool on Monday! What did I do? I took someone else's towel, but I told the towel room guy what happened in case someone came back complaining about having their town stolen. And today I brought my own emergency back up towel in case it happens again.

3. I'm ready for winter to be over. Enough said.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Workout: 6mi with 15min at 70% max HR, 15 min at 75% max HR, 15 min at 80% max HR and the remaining time as a cool down.

I'm experimenting with training with the heart rate monitor because of what I wrote earlier about not pushing myself and not knowing how much it is appropriate to push. For the most part, I'm trying to figure out what is 75% of my max HR and what that is supposed to feel like. The formula 220-age is okay for a general guess, but I'd like to try to be more specific than that. So I'll play with it for awhile. I've read that you hit about 95% at the end of a really hard 5k effort so hopefully I'll have a pretty good idea between my workouts and the Shamrock Shuffle in March.

Otherwise... Booooo... Just when I was getting used to all the dry weather we've been having, the snow is coming back again. We are supposed to have snow from Tuesday to Saturday. I really wanted to try to run with the group on Sunday, but I don't want to get stuck on the bike trainer on Saturday because it's snowy and icy out. Seriously. Will winter ever end?

Here's my question of the day: Does anyone else use a heart rate monitor? What are your goals for using it? How did you estimate your max HR? I like running gadgets, and that's what this is, but I do want to get the most out of using it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lazy Sunday


No working out today so I'm going to talk about food! Glorious food!

We did get our heart-shaped pizza last night, but I took the picture with my phone, and I have no idea how to get a picture on my phone onto the computer. *Sigh*

So I am not very good at cooking. D is definitely the "chef" at our house. I tend to under-cook and under-season everything I try to make. Yuck. But this week I'm going to try a bunch of recipes from the blog Crockpot 365. I got turned on to this website by a coworker who found a recipe on there for making yogurt. We've made the yogurt several times with good results (well, except one time when I let it cook way too long) so I'm going to try to make a few other things this week.

Autumn Sausage Caserole
Pasta Fagioli
Crockpot Salsa Chicken
Sweet and Sour Chicken
Smoky Refried Bean Soup

I chose most of these because they would use up things we already had on hand and because they seemed, well, pretty much fool proof as long as I dump in about 3 times more spice than I think I should. We're doing yogurt tonight so the crock pot will not be available for dinner, but I'm going to prep something for tomorrow because we go to our church small group meeting on Mondays, and we need something fast for dinner.

Last thing- Here's my question for everyone: How can I find a running partner who is about my speed and will do a run on Saturday? It seems like every group here does runs on Sunday, and Saturday fits my schedule much better. Also, it seems like everyone I know is either a lot slower or a lot faster than me. And I'm wary of putting a classified ad on something like Craig's List because I'm afraid that will attract some creepy person. There was a local running group that met on Saturdays, but I don't think they're doing that anymore... Anyone have any other suggestions? I'm afraid that to get a running partner I'm going to have to cave in and do my long runs on Sundays (which kind of messes up the rest of my schedule) or be stuck doing them alone (which is okay, I've done that before), but I really would like to try running with a partner.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Workout: 9mi on the treadmill watching Man vs. Food.

We got some snow last night. Enough for us to spin into a median driving home from dinner and to see a bunch of unlucky people who spun into other cars. It hasn't snowed in several weeks, and it was all white and pretty when I woke up. Unfortunately now it's just wet and drippy. But that means it's sunny and warm. No complaints there.

In other news, I got to see The Lute that D will be playing during early music ensemble, though I did have to tell him to quit it with Rhiannon and give me some strummy 15-th century stuff. He can also play the beginning of Stairway.

Still crossing my fingers for heart-shaped pizza tonight. And/or ice cream, which is a weekend tradition for us. Now it's time to relax with one of my new books.

Oh yeah! And The El Dorado Grill I mentioned yesterday? Two hour wait without reservations! And she said it's that way every night, not just on Valentines weekend. This is not a fancy place were talking about here. So we went to Chilis.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Taking it Easy

Workout: 4mi easy

Today is the first installment of Easy Friday. I ran 4mi this morning at an easy pace and didn't do any other exercise. No lifting, no biking, no swimming. Nothing to get in the way of my long run tomorrow. Hopefully the snow we're predicting to get will go along with the plan.

Tonight we're going to The El Dorado Grill for dinner. I just scarfed down some Secret Cupid chocolate so hopefully my appetite will be back by the time we get there, get seated, etc.

Anyone doing anything special for V-Day? There's a pizza place in town that's making heart-shaped pizzas, which has some appeal, but we're not planning to do anything special. D got his licorice last night, and I ate the jelly beans I was planning to give him so we are both set on the junk food front.

Secret Cupid Excitement

I got my Secret Cupid package last night from Amelia at AC/DC: Highways to Health. As you can see from the pictures, it contained a lot of tasty treats: a blueberry Z-bar, a coconut cream pie Lara Bar, a delicious dark chocolate bar, and several different varieties of tea. My favorite thing, though, is the Magic Muscles Massage bar (the white bumpy thing) that Amelia writes, "uses cinnamon leaf oil to heat things up and adzuki beans to loosen knots. Rub the bar where your muscles are aching and the peppermint oil will make your skin tingle." I haven't used it yet, but it smells wonderful.

Thanks again so much, Amelia. I hope to "see" you around here. And thanks to Lee at For the Love of Peanut Butter for organizing this.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Scheduling, spinning, etc.

Today's fitness fun:

Upper body weights- 3x10 reps of dips, seated row, bench press, overhead press, pullovers, and runner's raise- and core.

Spinning- 45min regular class at the Nat.

I think I'm finally figuring out a real schedule for the spring, with the goal of balancing easy and hard. I know I mention it a lot, but probably my biggest fitness struggle is making my hard days hard enough and my easy days easy enough. My natural tendency is to feel good, do too much but not with much intensity, crash, and repeat without making any progress. So I'm purposely choosing to take a very easy run day on Friday and a 45-min easier spin class on Thursday rather than a harder hour-long spin class on Friday. This also allows me to do my weight training at the same time as spinning, which I think is easier on my body than doing too separate workouts. Plus it's more efficient time-wise.

So right now things are looking like (intensity level in italics):
M- Tempo run (am) hard, swim (pm) easy to medium
T- Spin (am) medium, strength training (am) medium
W- Intensity run (am) hard, swim (pm) easy to medium
R- Spin (am) easy to medium, strength training (am) medium
F- Run (am) easy
S- Long run (am) medium to hard
U- Rest

The number one thing I'm trying to keep in my mind is that to get better, I need to focus my effort on those Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday runs. Everything else is secondary. If I need to take Friday off because I think it will give me more energy Saturday, then I shouldn't worry about it. Friday run << Saturday run.

So here's the question of the day: Do you have an overarching fitness "vision" that you use to keep yourself on track? Like, "I want to run XX time in a marathon so everything I do is dedicated to that goal." If that means you don't ski all winter or you take 2 weeks off running to let an injury heal, that's totally fine because it supports your goal of running XX time in a marathon.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Good hard and stupid hard

This is a follow up on my last post. D left a comment yesterday that made me think of a comment he made out loud the other night when we were talking about this same subject, "I don't think what you think 'really hard' is is the same as what I think 'really hard' is." And actually, I think he's right. I don't think I know what "really hard" is. Or rephrased, I don't know what "really hard but in a good way" is.

It's easy to know what "bad really hard" is. If you go out every single day and run as fast and as far as possible and then go to the gym and do as many burpees as you can in 30min (ahem, Crossfit endurance), you are probably going to burn out before you can make significant progress.

But I'm not sure where the sweet spot is. I consider an interval workout where you hit the paces prescribed by a training plan based on a previous race time to be moderately hard. I consider an interval workout where you run each interval as fast as you possibly can to be really hard. Same with tempo. Tempo run at 1/2 marathon pace is moderately hard. Tempo run as fast as I think I can possibly hold the pace (and probably slowing down at the end) is really hard. Doing 2 sets of bench presses where you really have to push through those last few before you hit fatigue is moderately hard. Doing sets of 5 where hitting every single rep is a challenge is really hard.

Basically, moderately hard makes me tired the next day but able to complete an easy workout. Very hard to me would be unable to workout the next day because I was totally dead. And that's fine in weight training. You do kill yourself every day you workout and then take the next day off. But- and this addresses another of D's comments in the comments- in running and triathlon, volume- and adding volume- is important. You can think of it as another form of intensity, even.

All this also makes me wonder if I'm pushing myself appropriately in races. For example, I think of 1/2 marathon pace as being "purposeful" and 10k pace as being "comfortably hard" whereas most running guides say that the 1/2 marathon or tempo pace should be "comfortably hard," and I've even seen someone post on a RW thread that he thought the marathon pace was comfortably hard. So am I running all my races way too slow? I'm famous for throwing up or almost throwing up at the end of every race so I always thought my intensity was appropriate, but maybe not.

So that's where I'm at.

My question is this: How do you define very hard? How do you know when you're working very hard as opposed to easy or moderately hard? How do you decide how you are going to balance your hard workouts with adding/sustaining training volume? I'm not really looking for anyone to give me an answer for what I should do. I'm more curious how others have discovered what works for them. I think that will help me think about what I'm doing.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Things have been going well workout-wise this week, but actual work has kept me too busy to update more often.

I did 8mi with intervals Monday, spinning Tuesday, 6mi yesterday, 6mi today, tomorrow will be spinning, and hopefully 10mi(in relatively warm weather!) on Saturday. Add in two swim sessions and, as of this afternoon, 2 strength training sessions, and you'll have my week.

By the way, my swimming is going very well. I always think I hate swimming until about the 3rd interval, and then I enjoy it a lot. Especially because it relaxes my shoulders after a day in front of the computer. I've progressed to being able to swim in the medium lane (rather than the slow lane) without embarrassing myself, and I think I really will be able to swim 500 yards in a row without dying at the end of 12 weeks. Considering that I was dying at the end of 50 yards just a few weeks ago, that's a lot of progress.

However, I think next week is going to be a cut back week. I've been running so little, it seems like, "Cut back from what?". But the plan is to run 6, 6, 6, 8, take it easy on the spinning, and drop the weight training sessions. When things are going well, I want to ignore that overall tired feeling that starts to accumulate (just one more workout!), but I know it's important. Mentally it's tough because I'm trying to lose some of my "emotional eating due to moving and starting a new job and Babcock ice cream" weight, but I know that as long as I eat reasonably, I'll be okay.

So this leads me to a self-realization I had at D's rowing meet: I just don't like working really hard. I don't like easy. I enjoy moderately hard, but when something gets really hard, I just don't do it. I do intervals and tempo runs if they are kind of hard, but I won't push myself to the limit. I don't mind fatiguing at rep 12 when I'm doing weight training, but I'm not going to do 5 sets of 5 on the squat.

D on the other hand likes working really hard. He has to be conscious about not trying to kill himself during a workout.

It bothers me a little bit because you see lots of inspirational quotes about never settling for less than your best or working your absolute hardest in everything that you do. But if you know you're not a "pusher" isn't it better to workout (or do anything) at a lower level than to not workout at all?

So here's my question: Are you a pusher? Do you always want to push yourself to see your limits? Or do you enjoy exercising (or whatever) only if it doesn't exceed the "moderately tough" threshold? Have you ever really thought about it? Do you see any benefits/drawbacks to the way you do things?

Monday, February 2, 2009


Married To The Sea

I realized that if I don't start posting more often, my secret cupid is going to have no idea what to get for me!

First, a few random updates:

1. Tri club- Dinner and party were fun. It was nice to play college student again for an evening. Spinning was supposed to start tomorrow, but it's pushed back until either Friday or next week. I might go to the gym and ride the stationary bike just for a change of scenery.

2. Running has been good. I'm upping my mileage slowly, and I had another great speed workout on the treadmill today. I'm learning that I can go a lot faster than I think I can. Today I did my intervals starting at 7.2 and increasing to 7.4. I'm still trying to figure out where that "really hard" spot is. My goal this week is to run with Fleet Feet on Saturday unless it's cold or snowy out. Even though I'm feeling good, I think next week should be a cut back week.

3. I still have a hard time getting excited about swimming. And I'm not swimming today if the pool heater is still broken. Too cold.

4. I actually enjoyed watching D's indoor rowing meet on Saturday. He did very well for himself, and the whole event gave me a lot to think about in terms of pushing myself. I will leave that for a later blog entry (don't want to waste all my good ideas at once!).

So... about me...actually I'm going to totally punt on this one, and just copy in my 25 random things about you note from Facebook. Ha. I hope this helps anyone new around get a feel for who I am.

1. Yesterday the high was about 30 degrees. I therefore declared it, "really warm," and wore a short dress and sandals to dinner (with a coat- I'm not insane). Trying to walk in snow slush in heels is not a great idea.

2. My two favorite TV shows are What Not to Wear and My Name is Earl. I'm not sure what that means about me...

3. For the last 4 weeks I have only run and biked in place, and I've somehow convinced myself those activities are forms of entertainment. This goes along with #4.

4. My new favorite activity since November has been only going outside when it's absolutely necessary.

5. I can read books describing really gory murder scenes, but I have to cover my eyes if there's violence in a movie or on TV.

6. I'm actually doing the job I went to school to do, and I have really good coworkers. It's surreal.

7. I give people I don't know secret nicknames. I used to see Teddy Roosevelt walking in the morning. He had a beard, dressed in slacks and a shirt, and walked really fast, swinging his arms wildly. I think Teddy Roosevelt is somehow appropriate.

8. I will also name things if the right name occurs to me. My old Saturn was the Blue Jellybean.

9. I used to be incredibly shy around people I didn't know well. Now I am incredibly un-shy. People who know me now can't believe the first one, and I'm sure if I see people I knew in high school, they'll have a hard time believing I've become so outgoing.

10. The transformation that happened in #9 is definitely a result of teaching at the community college in New Mexico, and I will always be thankful for that. It was also a result of watching my dad and his ease with people. I try to follow his example when I'm not sure what to say.

11. I went to a house party for the first time in forever last night and only because it started at 9pm.

12. I can't seem to sleep past 7am no matter how late I stay up. Fortunately I rarely stay up late. My brain goes off the clock at 6pm.

13. I'm reading the Bible this year- chapter by chapter- starting in Matthew and taking notes as I go because I don't really pay attention when I read if I don't take notes.

14. I like the idea of enjoying to cook, but at 6:30pm I'd really rather just have the house elves make something appear.

15. I will never take having a dish washer or my own washing machine for granted ever again.

16. The church we are going to has 20394803 members and looks like a high school performing arts building. I'm still not sure how I feel about that...

17. I talk a lot about running and triathlon, but my only true fitness goal is to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon before I have a baby. At the rate Daniel is going in school that should be no problem. ;)

18. I think indoor rowing meets and roller derby games are way more entertaining than they have any right to be.

19. I like light roast coffee, which means I think Starbucks is nasty.

20. I like drinking wine more because it makes me feel like a grown up than because I actually like wine.

21. My only other professional goal is to become a personal trainer one day. I think I would like doing that. The problem is I also like ice cream, and that doesn't do much for my "professional image".

22. I wish I would devote more time to practicing creative writing and practicing the piano.

23. I still refuse to like the Packers. Take that, Wisconsin!

24. Our downstairs neighbors need to turn down their heat- for real. I think they opened a Bikram yoga studio in their living room.

25. I hate olives, ginger and licorice..