Fueled by Birthday Cake (with video)

Wow, it’s been a crazy busy week.  Work has been super nuts and we’ve had family in town with a couple of birthday parties, one being for my son who just turned 7.  So much fun though!  It can be a challenge though to train for a marathon around life obligations.  That said, where there’s a will there’s a way.  Plus it’s also helpful when family is supportive. 🙂  I was able to stick to my training plan and get a run in on Saturday.  It also worked out that Saturday’s normal long run was actually only about a half hour this week.

I left the house Saturday’s run thinking I would be extra sluggish after eating bagels, pizza, sandwiches IMG_0362and birthday cake all day.  It was after my son’s party.  It was getting dark and it was rainy.  It was just IMG_0355one of those I-don’t-feel-like-doing-this-but-know-I-need-to runs.  I laced up, grabbed a rain jacket and got out there.  The 5 minute warm up was tedious but I did feel better to be out in the fresh air.  Once I hit the faster part of the workout though I felt surprisingly strong and was able to finish the rest of the workout at the required pace without even feeling tired or exhausted at the end.  Not every run is one of those runs where I feel amazing and like I’m nailing it so I’ve grown to appreciate those days where everything just seems to work out. 🙂

I also published this week’s video blog on YouTube!  Enjoy!

The Art of Not Freaking Out

I was blissfully going about my day yesterday when an email popped into my inbox.  This was the subject: “Welcome to the 2015 Zumbro Endurance Run”.  I immediately felt nauseous, sweaty and shaky.  I hadn’t forgotten about the race I registered for months ago.  Far from it.  I had been purposely not thinking about it (there’s a big difference).  Here’s what enters my brain every time I think about this race.

I’m in over my head.
I’m not this kind of runner.
I’ve never completed a trail race or run of any distance.
I’ve never completed a run or race of this distance.
I’m estimating it will take me about 4.5-5 hours.  I’ve never exercised for that long.  Ever.
And I don’t like mud.

And then there’s my distance running history to nag me as well: Here is how I’ve felt after my previous half marathons.
2013 Sioux Falls Half: I thought I was going to die. I honestly couldn’t believe I finished it. I cried in my husbands arms when it was over.  I was incredibly sore the rest of the day and for two days following.
2014 Sioux Falls Half: Ran fast and hard the whole way, set a PR 17 minutes faster than the same race last year.  Legs and lungs felt great but my feet were killing me.  I don’t think I could have taken another step solely (see what I did there?) due to foot pain.
2014 Monster Dash Half: Went out too fast.  Wound up taking walk breaks around mile 11.  Legs were just dog tired.  Finished 3 minutes slower than my PR the month before.
12.5 Mile Training Run (three weeks ago): Almost didn’t finish it.  I was just really tired.  No excuse either, ran the whole thing slow and easy.

I can’t imaging running another 4 miles (for me that’s 40-60 minutes) after any one of these.

I hate feeling anxious.  Anxiety just feels like poison coursing through my system and I won’t put myself through that for the next 4 days.  Since it’s this Saturday, I know not thinking about it is no longer an option. So I have two choices: 1.) Drop out and just decide to rain check until I feel more ready. Or 2.) Get over myself and find a way to not freak out about this for the next 4 days.

Well, I don’t quit.

Time for option 2.

Positive thoughts for consideration: 
My training has been solid the past couple months.  I have been running.  I’ve been running a lot.  I have in fact focused only on running and dropped the strength training completely (on Dr.’s orders).  Usually that has bummed me out but right now it’s my beacon of hope.

It’s fun to run somewhere new.

I will set a PR (for distance) no matter what, because I don’t quit (see above).  Even if I wind up walking/hiking most of it, it will be the farthest I’ve ever traveled on foot.

Most importantly, this is not the race.  It is a race.  This is a fun way to train on the way to the race.  I can’t get too hung up on races that are not my ultimate goal.  My goal is to finish the marathon in October.  And I know when I’m 4 days out from that thing, anxiety will be back in a very big way. At that point I will be able to remind myself how well I did on a little 17 mile trail race back in April. 🙂

1,000 Days of MyFitnessPal

Crazy milestone.  I’ve logged into myfitnesspal.com (MFP) every single day for the past 1,000 days.  I’m not sure if that’s dedication or insanity but there it is.  Here are some things I’ve learned through my experiences the past 1,000 days.

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Before MFP in March 2012

Let’s first paint the picture:  Rewind to June 2012.  I had previously tried tracking calories using SparkPeople.com with little success.  I would use it, not use it, use it, not use it – you get the idea.  I was visiting my sisters in Virginia when my youngest sister suggested myfitnesspal.com.  She said her (now) husband started her on it and liked the

My first day logged on MFP.

June 3rd – My first day logged on MFP.

usability.  At first I was a bit skeptical since I already had SparkPeople but figured I’d check it out.  Loved it.  When I found out there was a streak counter for days logged in, one thought came to mind “oh it’s on like Donkey Kong!”.  I’ve logged in every day since.  When I first started using the app I wasn’t very active.  I hated working out and just figured if I ate less I didn’t have to exercise.  I was a busy mom, chasing my kids, playing with them in the yard etc. and figured that was enough.  Looking at my diet now, I ate pretty poorly back then.  Lots of pizza, convenience foods (think EZ cheese, pop tarts, mountains of girl scout cookies).  Whatever was easy and whatever I wanted.

I started using the app to just see what I was eating.  From there I started slowly reducing my calories and did my best to stay within about 1,200 daily since that was what MFP recommended for my height.  It wasn’t easy and I often had “cheat” days where I didn’t feel like logging all my food.  But I did continue to log in.  Every. Single. Day.

January or February of 2013 I realized I needed to start exercising.  I realized I liked the MFP app so much I might as well see if there is anything that rewards consistent exercise the same way.  Enter Nexercise.  I don’t use this app anymore but I can’t tell you how big of a part this app played in my journey to health and wellness.  You get virtual badges for doing different kinds of activities or more minutes of an activity.  It counts everything from house cleaning to badminton to swimming.  It even listed specific brand exercises like those found on BeachBody.com.  There were weekly points where you could compete with strangers or your friends.  And boy did I!  I told myself that it didn’t matter what exercise I did, I needed to do something every day.  And I did.  And I discovered a whole world of new activities I love.  I jumped rope, I logged seemingly endless hours on the elliptical, I played baseball with my kids, I did yoga, I walked (I walked a lot), I biked, I took fitness classes for the first time in my life.  I was so excited to see my Nexercise steak continue and rack up the points.  I also noticed that MFP gave you extra calories for eating with all of this activity.  Now we’re talking. 🙂  I started logging my food more consistently.

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First 5K – May 10th, 2013

Enter (my now very best running) friend.  I saw on her Facebook page that she had registered for a night time glowed up 5k.  It looked super cool.  She invited me to come.  My thought was I could never run for 3 miles.  She was super encouraging and said it was okay to walk and some of the others who were going would be walking too.  I remember this vividly: I was at a hotel in Wichita Kansas for work and wanted to see if I could do it.  I got on the hotel treadmill and huffed and puffed for about 46 minutes.  I walked, I jogged, walked some more, cursed a little.  But I survived 3 miles.  I registered for the race that night.  I kept up with my other activities but didn’t really train for the 5k.  When race day came around I some how ran (okay, slowly jogged) the whole darn thing.  I was on such a high, within the week I was asking her when we could do another race.  I was hooked.  I registered for a 10K, but knew I needed a training plan.  I completed every day of the couch to 10K program sometime during that Summer in preparation for the race at the end of August.  In total I ran 9 races in 2013, including my first half marathon.

With my boys after finishing my second 1/2 marathon - September 2014.

With my boys after finishing my second 1/2 marathon – September 2014.

I kept up with running and eventually didn’t need Nexercise anymore to motivate me to exercise.  I continued to log everything into MyFitnessPal.  I took a couple months off in Winter for a surgery but jumped back in with my first race of 2014 in March.  Eventually after much research I realized I need to start strength training.  I discovered that endless Capture2hours of cardio are not going to get me to where I want to be in regards to my physique, strength and endurance goals.  In May I began the ChaLean Extreme program from BeachBody but abandoned it after about a month when I joined LA Fitness and started working with a trainer instead.  My sister also helped me get started with eating IIFYM-style after I saw her using it with great results.  Increased calories to support my fitness was great.  Additional muscles and strength were also an added bonus.  I kept running.  I racked up a total of 467 miles in 2014 and finished 20 races. I continued to log into MFP.

January 2015

January 2015

MFP has changed my life in a gradual yet wonderful way.  I wake up, I shut off the alarm, I log in.  Every day.  I’m the most in shape I’ve ever been in my life.  I love trying new things and being active with my family.  I have discovered a love of racing and am excited to start training for my first marathon in June.

And that, my friends, is how I’ve spent my first 1,000 days on MyFitnessPal.

Mind Games for the Long Run

Some Back Story
I haven’t been running for very long.  I started in May of 2013 when a friend of mine encouraged me to run a 5k with her.  The very thought of running any distance at all sounded like torture let alone slightly over 3 miles.  Thing is, I love a challenge.  I remember it vividly.  I immediately got on the treadmill at the hotel I was staying for a work trip and walked/slogged through 3 miles.  It took me almost 50 minutes but I knew I would be able to at least finish a 5K.  I registered for it.  I ran it.  Let me say that again… I ran it.  The whole thing.  At the time I had never run continuously for that long.  I crossed the finish line and was hooked.  Here is a little known fact: I don’t really like running that much.  I’ll do it and I have those runs that are just incredible and give me the euphoric runner’s high.  Most of the time though, my training runs are just okay.  I don’t love running.  I love racing.  I live for race day.  I know race day is going to be awful if I don’t get my training runs though so I make sure they happen.

The Long Run: Mind over Matter
Even better than a race day is a long race day.  I’d call the 10 miler my jam.  It’s the perfect distance for me right now.  It’s challenging, it’s long enough to feel like a major accomplishment without the pain and next day soreness of the half marathon.  I’m easing into those feelings about my half marathon but those extra 3 miles make a world of difference.

IMG_0284Total honesty – anything over 5 miles still feels like a long run to me.  I dread it, I get psyched up for it and eventually push through it but I rarely look forward to the long training run.  I’ve learned through trial and error that running is as much about the mind as it is about the muscles.  When I get that feeling of I’m too tired, I can’t do this anymore, I don’t want to do this anymore, I give myself a quick check up.  Legs: Are your legs sore/hurting/injured?  Heart: Are you gasping for breath/heart rate too high? If the answer yes I will slow down or take a walk break.  But usually the answer is no for both at which point I know it has to be in my head.  I need to bring out my mental tool box and fix what’s broken.

For me at least the very worst thing I can do is think about how much is left.  How big of a bummer is it when you’re tired and bored and just don’t want to continue and all you can think of is I have 4 miles left, that’s 40 minutes if I’m lucky, which is almost an hour, I’d really rather be napping for almost an hour, so how much is left now? 3.8 miles, ugh this is going to last forever!  I found myself in that exact predicament 3 miles into my 6 mile easy pace run last night.  I really had to dig deep to keep focused.  Here are some tricks that I use that have worked for me.

  1. Try to think of anything else other than the run itself.  I think about things I want to get done for the week, things that have happened at work, what I might snack on when I’m done running etc.  Usually that will keep me occupied for a little while but if not I proceed to #2.
  2. Look at things going on around me.  Try counting trees or look for interesting people to watch.  Try to remember everything as if there’s going to be a test when I’m done.  If I’m on the treadmill try different music or watching a movie.  When this isn’t enough it’s time for #3.
  3. I visualize that I’m playing a game and I’m collecting “points” (fractions of miles).  For some reason getting something feels better to focus on instead of thinking how much is left.  Focusing on what I already “have” and trying to increase some virtual high score that doesn’t exist helps me avoid thinking about how much distance or time still remains. If you’ve played the Temple Run app, that is a great visual.  In the game you get more points for running longer.
  4. This one’s a little weird so bear with me.  I call it “God’s Thumb”.  If I need to speed up a little (which I probably need to do if I’m considering stopping) I picture a giant thumb applying gentle pressure to my lower back.  This simultaneously fixes my form and speeds me up just a little.  It also prevents me from speeding up by sprinting which will only lead to an energy crash later.  If I try this and still feel like I have nothing left, am super bored and not enjoying the run I move to #4.
  5. This is when I start pulling out the big guns.  This is my last big mind game and I only use it when I really need it.  I visualize my running friends are right next to me.  I imagine my trainers and coaches are yelling at me to push forward.  And these trainers and coaches are sometimes people I have never met!  Dolvett from Biggest Loser and Chalene from BeachBody are just a few.  If they motivate me, they join me on my little mental cheer team.  I also picture my family waiting for me at the end of the big 26.2 when it happens.

These have worked for me although I know I’ll need to add to my mental repertoire as my training runs get longer  Share in comments if you have some of your own!