Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Tire and a Sledgehammer

Yesterday was a chilly 42 degrees with 20-25 mph winds. We had hoped to go hiking, but due to the weather decided to forgo long periods of time outdoors. I wanted to get a workout in though, and since I had done a tempo run on Friday, I wanted to give my joints a break from running.

After an amazing afternoon nap, I headed to the gym at about 5:30 pm. I started with a few gentle laps around the track, and then some arm/shoulders/chest free weight-lifting. I caught about 15 minutes of Braveheart while walking on the treadmill (5% incline for 1 mile).

That's when I got a little crazy.  When I was walking around the track, I noticed someone using a sledgehammer on a big tire downstairs. I instantly wanted to try it, but felt a little self-conscious, in part because I'm female. I don't know if this is generally true, but I don't typically see females do anything other than cardio and free weights at the gym, myself typically included.
Now I have no doubt that we women can do stuff like sledgehammering a tire, it's just that it for whatever we reason we (the collective, general 'we') don't typically choose to do so. Maybe it's stereotype, maybe it's worry we'll get big bulging muscles (which I trust most people reading this know is very unlikely given our hormone make-up), or maybe it's fear of looking dumb. I'm not sure what it is.

I think for me personally, though, it is a fear of being ridiculed for being "un-feminine".  Now, I am a through-and-through characteristic tomboy. I spent much of my childhood building forts, shooting hoops, playing catch, mowing lawns, and otherwise finding ways to get muddy. It's who I am. One of the reasons that I became a manufacturing engineer is because I love to get my hands dirty. It's not a persona I'm trying to create--it's just the way I was made.

Now I enjoy a good pedicure from time to time (when my mom pays!), and I get my hair done regularly. I enjoy many aspects of being female. It's fun to get "gussied up" to go out to dinner, and it makes me feel awesome when my husband tells me I'm beautiful.

But there's also nothing like the feeling of being able to move a 700 lb mold at work by myself (with the assistance of some key equipment!). Feeling capable feels...awesome. So yesterday, I threw my fear of the perception of strangers to the wind, and picked up the sledgehammer. OK, first off, let me tell you sledgehammers are a lot heavier than they look! I struggled a bit to get a good handle on it, but eventually got the hang of it.

I got a couple of strange looks, but it didn't matter. That tire got a pretty decent whalloping, and I felt pretty darn good about it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Recovery and Apples

Today started bright and early at 5:30 am to haul myself to the gym. I am very fortunate in that the gym is about 1/4 of a mile from my house (and it is all right-hand turns to get there!). I'm glad, because it's hard enough to get up at 5:30 without having to drive a long way before even starting to work out.

The long run on Sunday has left me with a little residual soreness, so today I took it easy. A gentle couple of laps around the track, followed by a lot of stretching and then 3 miles on the treadmill.  I walked them at 3.0% incline, with 6x200 gentle running strides about every half mile. The strides is a new thing I'm trying on recovery days to keep my legs loose. I tried jogging the three miles on recovery days recently, and found that my joints really just need a break from the constant pounding on off days.

I followed the treadmill up with another gentle couple of laps around the track, then more stretching, and finally some weight lifting for the arms/back. All in all, I was in and out of there in about 1 hour 15 min.

After heading home and showering, I had a couple of cups of coffee, awesome pumpkin power oatmeal, and an apple. They have been on sale for 89 cents a pound at my local store, so I've stocked up.

It felt good today to have gotten a workout in before work-work. I had a good amount of energy throughout the day, and even during my 4 pm dentist appointment (no cavities this time, thankyouverymuch).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

One Heck of a Long Run

Weekends were made for long runs... although it was kind of hard to convince myself of that last Sunday when it was 28 degrees and windy outside. Check out my awesome ninja-runner outfit:

You'll never see me coming!

Today was a little better--almost 50 degrees. The cloud cover and 10-20mph winds kept it from being ideal running weather, but if I waited for the weather to be perfect, I'd never get my miles in!

There is an 8 mile asphalt trail about a 20 minute drive from my house--the longest recreational trail in the city. It is one of my favorite places to run. The trail starts near downtown, then follows a creek out of town, winding through grassy meadows and horse pastures along the way. Each 0.2 mile is marked, so I don't have to necessarily bring my GPS. There are usual quite a few other runners as well as bikers and walkers taking advantage of the trail, so it doesn't feel too isolated.

This run was one of the best long runs I've ever had. I'm not 100% sure why I felt so good. My pre-run fuel was pretty average. I ate a slightly bigger lunch than usual about an hour before the run (sweet potato carrot ginger soup with Greek yogurt, cashews, bread, and half a Luna energy bar) but nothing unusual. Yesterday evening, I had a light dinner with half a bottle of beer (I'm not great at finishing beers!) and had an average night's sleep. 

I even had a pesky headache I had not been able to shake all day. My hip was still bothering me a lot during, but I made a conscious decision to try to run through it and subsequently didn't spend a lot of time thinking or worrying about it. Due to my own wishful thinking, I was slightly under-dressed for the weather, and consequently was a bit chilly the entire run.

Physically, the odds were in favor of me having an average long run (i.e. slow & steady, with hip soreness increasing with the miles). Instead, I ran 11 miles at a relatively fast pace for me. Even at around miles 8 and 9, I still had pep in my step and could crank out 9:20-10:00 miles without nearly as much effort as they normally would have taken at that distance.

Given that not too much of the physical aspects of the run were much different than previous ones, I have to think that the improvement was psychological. On Saturday morning, the chiropractor I saw (more on this another post) determined with an x-ray that my legs do not appear to be different in length. I have thought for a while that a leg length discrepancy might be the cause of my hip discomfort, and so it was a huge mental relief to find out that wasn't the case.

Knowing that it wasn't an innate skeletal issue felt very freeing, and I felt I didn't need to be as cautious with each step. And you know what? Eventually the hip soreness didn't bother me. I can't say for sure if it actually decreased or if I just became more ignorant of it (entirely possible), but a weight has been lifted. We'll see how sore I am tomorrow morning! Right now, I feel good though.

Also helpful was running (ha!) into the pastor of our church who is a frequent biker in the same trail. He rode alongside me for about half a mile, and hooked me up with some water, which really gave me a kick to keep going.

So I am pleased right now. I had a great long run, and feel really good right now. I worked through the hip discomfort and ran strong and fast (for me!). Feelings like this remind me of why I run--because it feels so darn good.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Massages and Annoying Advice

Massages are wonderful. They are also usually cost-prohibitive for me, but I began getting them more often after I began working for my company a couple of years ago, because of a wellness program offered that covers the majority of the cost. Since then, I've had about 10 massages in the past couple of years. Some have been better than others, but they have always been a relaxing experience and have helped to loosen up some tight muscles.

I enjoy talking to the various massage therapists I've had (probably about 6-8 different ones). Each of them has had a different approach, from their physical technique to the advice they give. They have typically been very knowledgeable about the human body and have been able help with various minor complaints I've had. After a bad car wreck I had last year, I had some lingering neck pain and could not lift my as high as I used to without some discomfort and tightness. After just one session with an awesome therapist, the pain greatly diminished and a couple of weeks later was entirely gone. (Note: I am not saying this would work for everyone, or even me if my injury was serious. It did work for me in this case though).

Almost all of the therapists I've had at this place have been good, so I was willing to try a new one that was available. He was an older guy with 25 years of experience, and I figured he might have some good advice, especially regarding my right hip, which has been a recurrent discomfort for the past 6 months.

Not so much. Things started out OK, with a discussion of the possible leg length discrepancy I might have as well as comments from him about how my opposite leg was much tighter than my one with the troublesome hip. It could be that my right leg is having to compensate for weakness in my left, and this is causing the hip issues. An interesting theory and one that might explain the symptoms.

Then he began to ask why I had to run such long distances. I told him that I enjoyed the challenge and how it made me feel.

"But your body is sending you a signal," he said. "You aren't made for running long distances."'

Taken a bit aback, I replied, "I think it is sending me a signal that there is a problem that needs to be looked at, not that I am not supposed to run long distances."

"You're trying to make your body do something it wasn't made to do. You think you are smarter than your body, so you keep forcing it to perform. Eventually, it's just going to refuse. "

At this point, I was a little annoyed. First of all, while my hip discomfort is bothering, I don't think it means I'm not meant to run long distances. I think it indicates that there is currently a muscle or skeletal reason for my discomfort, and I do need to look into it. But it isn't an ominous signal that I am not cut out to be a runner.

I honestly love running and how it makes me feel.  The hip discomfort is a problem that I need to take action on. However, it has not gotten worse since it first arrived, which makes me think I'm not harming my body by continuing to run (I would stop or at least decrease my running if the pain became worse, absolutely).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Early Bird Feels the Burn

I started writing this post on the elliptical at the gym at 6:30 in the morning last week. After composing a couple of half-jibberish sentences, I had to quit after I slipped and nearly fell off the machine. Blogging and exercising can mix, just maybe not at the same time!

What better way to greet a Monday morning than by waking up at 5:30am for a workout? Morning workouts, at least during the week, seem to work well for me. It feels good to complete something so early in the morning, and this sense of accomplishment sticks with me throughout the day. Knowing that I have earned the right to relax makes me look forward to taking it easy after work. I admit, sometimes I have not looked forward to working out after working 8+ hours. (On a side note, I really don't think I have ever regretted hauling my butt to the gym or for a run outside).

There are a couple of drawbacks to working out early, of course. The biggest one is the sleep forfeit. When I'm smart, I compensate by going to bed earlier, but not usually enough to completely make up for getting up at 5:30. Squeezing in 8 hours of sleep means bedtime is at least 9:30 (earlier for me, as I need a little time to read and settle down). But I'm not always smart and don't get to bed any earlier, so I do lose an hour of sleep. Fortunately that is fix-able by getting the early-to-bed idea into my head.

Second is that I don't usually have as much time in the mornings as I would in the evenings to work out. I can usually fit in a 3 mile run and 15-20 minutes of strength training. When I worked out in the evenings, I could tack on some extra time if my planned workout took longer than I expected or if I just felt like working out longer. But, the time difference isn't major--I get an hour in the mornings instead of maybe the hour and 20 minutes I might have stayed in the evening.

So when my phone alarm cheerily announced 5:30am had arrived, I hauled my sorry butt out of bed and into the gym clothes I had conveniently laid out the night before. I'm not sure how it took me 30 minutes to pull myself together and arrive at the gym (which is less than a mile from my house), but it did. I didn't even make coffee first. If I am going to make this early-rising-working-out thing stick, I need to figure out how to not piddle so much.

I've done early workouts a few times in the past, and like those times, it was nice to experience the gym in a much less crowded state. Apparently the 5:30 (no, make that 6 am) crowd is a pretty small group.

I felt that I had more physical and mental energy throughout the day by starting the morning off with a run. It was indeed a psychological boost to know that my workout was already done for the day (an item checked off the to-do list by 7 am? Yes, please!) And I've really enjoyed the evening hanging out with the hubby and cats.

Now if I could just keep my eyes open

Overall, I'm pretty happy with switching to more morning workouts. It gets me revved up for the day, and gets an important task of the day done early. I may never be an early bird, but fortunate I don't have to be too alert when churning out a few miles :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Belated New Year's Goals Post

I started these goals about two weeks ago (really!) but have been perfecting them (aka procrastinating) and am only now just posting them.

I've used a ranking system to prioritize which of these goals are most important. There are a lot of things that I want to do in 2012, but it's important for me to distinguish between "must-have" goals and "nice-to-have"goals. So I've ranked them with an A-B-C scale.
  • A-goals--Highest priority. These are goals I have identified as being very important to accomplish in 2012. Non-negotiable black and white goals.
  • B-goals--Important goals, but I would be happy with significant progress toward them if I didn't meet them completely.
  • C-goals--The best way I can describe these is as something I would like to do, but am not firmly committed to.
And here they are:

  1. Run a sub-55 minute 10k
  2. Run a sub 2 hour half marathon
  3. Design, prototype, and test my running apparatus idea (even if it is not successful, I would like to have one for myself!)
  4. Continue improving eating habits
  5. Support my husband through the end of his 2nd year of law school, whatever summer work he ends up doing, and the beginning of his 3rd year of law school. 
  6. Write at least 150 blog posts
  7. Write at least 50 pages of memoir
  8. Between the two of us, save at minimum the equivalent of half of my 2011 salary
  9. Draw closer to God. Pray for at least 5 minutes/day on average (have to start somewhere).
B goals:
  1. Take week-long finance course at work 
  2. Execute another Six Sigma project at work
  3. Learn more about mold design and manufacturing
  4. Finish painting our living room ceiling
  5. Explore where we want to live after Shane graduates
  6. Tighten ties with family and good friends
C goals:
  1. Grow a small vegetable garden on my patio (yay cherry tomatoes!)
  2. Try running with a running group. Just once.
  3. Try a yoga class. 
  4. Cook more and experiment with new recipes. 
Word of the year:  CALM.  Don't get riled up about things that ultimately don't matter.  Don't allow situations to control my behavior, especially at work. Apply logic and rational thinking to difficult situations.

Alright 2012. Let's do this.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Workout Times for the 9-5 Crowd

I've been thinking lately about reasons to try to fit in morning workouts as opposed to the evening ones that I typically do on week days. I actually work 8-5(ish) pm, so my options during the week are working out before work, during my 1 hr lunch, or after work. Typically I go for after work, but I've been thinking about doing more mornings lately for the following reasons:

Hooray! It's morning!
  1. Psychological benefit. The biggest benefit I can think of is the mental boost from getting a workout done first thing. I could check something off the to-do list before 7 am! It's great to not have to worry about whether or not I'll be able to work out later. It's already done. 
  2. Energy boost. I feel that I generally have more energy during the workday on days with morning exercise. Part of it is mental--I know that when I go home that evening, I don't have to work out, I can just rest. Part of it definitely is physical though. I get a kick from working out that lasts for a while. Gotta love those endorphins.  
  3. Heat beating. During the summers here, it can get very hot and humid. I have usually sucked it up and just gone running in the evenings after work, since I much prefer to run outside than on a treadmill or track. However, the morning is definitely a cooler time than the evening to run.  
  4. Food planning.  It's easier to plan what to eat for the day when activity-related calorie burn has been mostly completed. I can budget fuel input more accurately when I can account for the bulk of the physical expenditure ahead of time. 
  5. More time with hubby.  He's not an early bird, so I have a better chance of hanging out with him in the evenings. 
  6. Ben Franklin says so. "Early to bed, early to rise makes for really good workouts" is the quote, I believe.
Despite these really awesome reasons to get up early and work out, there is a one very compelling reason not to--this thing called sleep. We'll see. As long as I keep getting training in, one way or another--that's the most important thing.