Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"I Can't Get No Satisfaction"

"You say, 'If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.' You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled." 
-Charles H. Spurgeon

I have this problem. I want to do more races. Bigger races. Races in different locations. Trifectas. Beasts. Ultra Beasts. Double Trifectas. Ultra Marathons on mountainsides. The desire is not the problem. The problem is that I am beginning to feel as if I am not accomplished if I don't do said races. This is false. 
Meme credit: Desirée Rincón 
But I know myself. None of those races would satisfy me. If I did the Ultra Beast, there would be another big race that would become THE race. More money spent. More time spent. More longing for more. (Hence the Spurgeon quote.)

I'm guessing someone out there can relate. So, what do we do if we have family, work and life obligations and aren't independently wealthy? 

Be awesome where you are. 

Be someone's inspiration. 
Work hard at everything you do. 
Be thankful for all that you have. 
Take joy in the little things.

Mind Games Again

I can't say it enough: your mind is the most important factor in your success. 
If your mind is disagreeable, find a way to over-ride it.

Yesterday I had plans to go workout at the weight room, surrounded by people. Then: Change of plans. Weight room closed early. My alternative-- work out at home. Let me say, I have plenty of equipment to complete a good workout at home. It just requires a little creativity and planning. And a lonely workout in a hot garage. I just wasn't feeling it. I didn't want to do it. (Mind you, I've just come off of a mini-vacation and haven't had a good lift in 3 days.) I knew I needed to do it. How to convince my mind that I was all in for a workout? 

First, I had to figure out what I was least looking forward to in working out. For this particular day, it was assembling equipment and planning a series of exercises and moving from the garage (for bar and dumbbell work) to the pull up bar upstairs to outside on the patio (for more dynamic moves) while the family was sitting happily watching Spongebob on the couch. All of that was taxing my brain before I even began the workout-- I can be very lazy.

My solution: do a workout using the fewest amount of variation and movements so that it would be "easy": 100 clean and jerks with 65lbs for time. Fifteen sweaty minutes later, I had completed a really good workout. I convinced myself this would be an easy workout because I basically set up my bar and didn't move from there until I was done. I further broke the 100 reps into 10s with as little rest as possible between sets. 

Bottom line: trick your mind into thinking it's going to be easy. 

  • Play with the way you count-- 20 reps becomes 1 to 10 and 10 to 1. Or 2- 10s. When counting rounds, I think, "Almost half way," or "After this round I'm on my last one."
  • Adding weight-- go by feel; don't calculate the pounds until after you are done. Set up your starting weight and then add a little at a time. Chances are if you see X number of pounds, you're going to think, "Wow. That's heavy!" And then enters doubt.
  • Don't think, just do-- the more you think about it, the better your chances for talking yourself out of it, whether it's getting yourself to the gym or planning to go heavy. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Workout Log

It's not pretty, and it's falling apart, but it gets the job done!
I keep a workout log. I didn't always, but I didn't always have a specific purpose for each workout. I would go in with a plan of what I was doing and a vague idea of how much I had lifted previously and how many reps I'd completed. No wonder I got bored with workouts, stayed at a strength plateau for a very long time, and didn't see a whole lot of physical changes. 

Why keep a workout log?
  1. Track progress. Duh. Ok, this is kind of a no-brainer, but for a long time I thought, "only real athletes write all the details down. I'm just a mom trying to get/stay fit." But as I mentioned above, not keeping track of how many weeks (months?) I had been squatting the same weight led me to boredom and no visible results.
  2. Measure your body by weight lifted. We tend to be so hard on ourselves (see my last post). We have to stop living and dying, loving and hating our bodies by the number on the bathroom scale. Are you bench pressing more than you were two weeks ago? Are you cleaning more than you did a month ago? Can you now do 15 double unders unbroken? Did you finally get that unassisted pull up? How much faster is your mile today than it was 6 months ago? These are the numbers that matter.
  3. Add variety. Sometimes it takes seeing the workout on paper for you to notice that you are doing too many of the same exercises. Our bodies grow through variety-- in intensity, in power, in speed, in number of reps, etc. 
  4. Motivation. Your log provides a tangible way to track how close you have come to your goal. And actually by doing all of the above, it should help you stay motivated to continue on. You are more likely to see not just changes in the amount of weights lifted, but in the shape of your body.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Body You've Been Given

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."
-Steve Prefontaine

No matter what shape, size or weight, your body is a gift. It's taken me way too many years to understand that. And I'm still learning it today. We grow into our bodies in a world where we are inundated with images of perfection, and now we've joined in the flood of false images by carefully scrutinizing each and every picture we publish on Facebook and Instagram. "Not this one, I look too _______," and we photoshop ourselves to override the blemishes. No matter how many times we have lamented the media's presentation of the human form, we participate in the insanity.

Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are masterpieces, handcrafted by the Master Artist-- the same One who paints magnificent sunsets, the One who sculpted the mountains, the One who dotted the skies with millions of stars. We were planned, shaped-- on purpose-- with that bent nose, crooked toes, knobby knees and imperfect complexion. 

The body you have been given is a gift to unwrap and discover-- how amazingly well it works. Fuel it properly, rest it plentifully, and it will give back to you. We have to stop measuring ourselves in the mirror and on the scale. Measure your body by the work it can do-- how fast can you run, or how far? how much can you lift or carry or push? Maybe it's only a pudgy toddler today, but enjoy the strength that is in you. 

Somewhere we lost the joy in moving and letting our bodies work. We replaced that joy with anger and frustration... "I'll never be a size __." And so we punish ourselves with hours of mindless exercise, performed only to make our bodies transform into the unachievable perfect body that we see (airbrushed) on the cover of a magazine. 


Exercise for the sake of movement. Let your body prove how strong it is. Enjoy each pound lifted, not lost. Run or ride or swim because it brings you joy, not because you have some mileage goal to meet. Savor the taste of real food, not juiced or processed or falsified and injected with flavors. 


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rest and Recovery

“Men seek rest in a struggle against difficulties; and when they have conquered these, rest becomes insufferable.”
 Blaise PascalPensées

Summer is here! And for me, a teacher, along with summer comes more opportunity for training. But more time for training means that I need more time for recovery. UGH! For some reason, I have just enough time for running and strength training, but never any time for proper recovery. It's just a fact: when we neglect proper recovery, we are setting ourselves up for injury. I have a bad habit of not stretching, resting, or rolling until I'm injured and forced to make time for it. So, this post is an admonishment for myself and hopefully a reminder to you to treat your recovery with the same importance as your training. It IS part of your training.
  • Stretching-- this is pretty much a no-brainer. If you had PE class as a child, then you've done some stretching. However, all stretching is not created equal. There are two main types: static and dynamic (or ballistic).  Dynamic stretching is what you should be doing to warm-up and ease yourself into a training session. Dynamic stretching is "stretching" with movement. Static stretching is the stretch and hold moves that should only be done after muscles have been worked, at the end of your workout. 
  • Foam Rolling--sounds nice, right? It's been said that if you're not screaming in pain while you are foam rolling, then you're not doing it right. Can't wait to try it, can you? There are various types of foam rollers and various techniques to using them. You can also use a lacrosse or tennis ball, a fat piece of pvc pipe, your grandmother's rolling pin, the corner of a doorway (yes, I have been known to massage out a knot in my back bear style). I've found foam rolling to be pretty intuitive: roll the muscle and when you feel a painful knot, keep rolling it until if feels better. But here's a video from Livestrong Woman that does a great job of explaining the process: 
  • Yoga--I confess. I once giggled and scoffed at yoga and those who practice. I think it's the whole "one with the universe" zen thing. Actually, it was more that my total lack of coordination, balance and flexibility would reduce me to a pile of laughter on the floor, all the while the yogi would calmly be talking about breathing in fire and strength from the sun (or something like that). I also had a complete misunderstanding of just how intense it can be! I now have 3 yoga dvd's that I use: Jillian Michaels' Yoga Meltdown, Bob Harper's Yoga for the Warrior, and the P90X "Yoga X." (Please forgive me yoga lovers, I know these aren't examples of the true yoga practice.) I like Jillian's dvd because she seems to be as uncoordinated as I am and visibly (or as the camera strategically cuts away) bobbles and holds shaky poses; however, I've mostly moved away from hers because it's more focused on strength, less on relaxation. Bob's (I really can't take the title seriously) is pretty intense and again more focused on strength. My favorite is the Yoga X because it contains strength, balance and relaxing poses. **I am on the hunt for a good relaxing dvd that I can use on rest days to complement my strength training, so please recommend one!
  • X Stretch-- I'm giving this one a category of its own. At a full hour long, this dvd from the P90X series is a stand alone "workout." It's great for an active rest day because there is a fair amount of movement, but it provides stretches from head to toe. You just have to get past Tony Horton's sometimes funny, sometimes annoying and always cheesy commentary.
Aside from those workout type additions you can make to help aid recovery-- it's vital that you SLEEP and eat whole foods! Training tears the muscles down; to make gains in strength and speed, you need sleep so that your body can build itself back up! Whole foods, including the proper amount of protein for your weight and activity levels will help you get the right balance of nutrients to assist in that rebuilding process. 

What did I forget? Do you have a favorite recovery routine?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Running Reading

First of all I want to mention the Mud and Adventure link on the blog. Mud and Adventure is everywhere! They have one of the best, most comprehensive lists of races, along with discounts, training articles, and race and gear reviews. Click the link to the right to check out their site! 

I just read an article on about the top 5 running books that are must read this summer. I must say that I was a little disappointed, but maybe that's because I'm a reader. Of the books listed, I've read two-- and they are really good. But I really feel that they've left off some really good ones. So, call me a copycat if you must, but here are some of my favorite running related books:

  1. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Ok, I completely agree with them on this book. It will make you want to find some trails, kick off your shoes and run barefoot for as long and as hard as you can. It's a book about the author's personal discovery of the Tarahumara Indians and his own love of running. 
  2. Eat & Run by Scott Jurek. This book will make you want to go vegetarian and run an ultramarathon. I love this book. And I am most definitely NOT a vegetarian. Jurek is an ultramarathon phenom and just an interesting human being. Eat & Run is packed with links to other books and websited that Jurek himself had used on his quest to fine tune himself into a healthier athlete. Jurek is not just a great ultramarathoner, he is an educated athlete.
  3. Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss by Dean Karnazes. I continue to be completely fascinated by Dean Karnazes. The man has taken heat from critics who say that he is nothing more than a glory hound, taking on crazy feats to just win popularity. I really just think he's a guy who constantly seeks new and different challenges. Karnazes has been featured on the t.v. show Stan Lee's Superhumans for his body's astounding ability to endure fatigue and exhaustion. Run! is a personal, behind the scenes look into the real "Karno." Reading this will make you feel as if you could call Karno up and invite him for a run.
  4. My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon by Bart Yasso. Yasso is the "Chief Running Officer" of Runner's World magazine. Similar in nature to Karnazes' book, Yasso provides adventures about life as a runner and writer. His stories are funny and interesting, varying from tales of running a naked 5k to running the Comrades Marathon. He also provides insight into his method for predicting marathon race pace, the Yasso 800s. 
  5. Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. I read this book and Jurek's book back to back. Roll, like Jurek is a vegetarian but he competes in triathlons. And not just tri's-- Ironman distance. As a matter of fact, he's complete the Epic 5-- 5 Ironman distance tri's, on 5 different Hawaiian Islands within a week's time. The book details Roll's journey from competitive swimmer, to alcoholic, to overweight and unhealthy 40 year old, to ultra athlete who inspires others to change their lives. And *bonus* this book just came out in paperback.
  6. Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across An Finish Line-- and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. Not a memoir like the rest of the books on this list, this book is more of a "how to." The ladies entertain with musings about their and other mother runners' experiences in training. The authors provide training plans for all levels of runners and distances, as well as injury prevention and recovery advice. 
  7. Marathon: the Ultimate Training Guide by Hal Higdon. Again, a "how to." This was the book that I used to prepare for my first marathon, so it has a special place in my heart. All the ins and outs for preparing for and successfully completing a marathon are contained in this one book. Love it! And what I really love-- his plans are published for free on his website. Gotta love that generosity... and for that reason, I would buy the book.
  8. 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days-- And How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance! by Dean Karnazes. Ok, another one by Karnazes. This was one of the first books on running I read, which is also why it's one of my favorites. I'm not sure that I agree with the "how you too can achieve super endurance" part, but after reading the book, I really wanted to go run marathons. Multiple marathons.
  9. The Extra Mile: One Woman's Personal Journey to Ultrarunning Greatness by Pam Reed. Ok, I really have mixed thoughts on this one. Reed is very open and honest about her life and career as an ultrarunner. And in that honesty the reader gets the good, the bad and the ugly. She struggled (she writes in past tense) with anorexia, but I found that in reading the book, she continues to struggle with the disease and possibly is in a bit of denial. The book provides what most other books on ultrarunners don't-- a peek inside the woman ultramarathoner. 
  10. Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Ok, I lied. This book is not at all about running. Wild is such a beautifully and powerfully written story of Strayed's emotional and physical journey, that I had to include it on this list. And after reading it, you will start making plans to run/hike/wander your way through miles of mountainous trails somewhere. 
That's it. My top 10 list of must read inspirational, educational and entertaining running reads. 

Now, it's your turn-- which book did I miss?