Saturday, July 31, 2010

Strong Body, Strong Mind

Saturday’s Pilates (7/31/10)

This post will be a quickie, just like my work-out was.  I used to be really into Pilates, and my efforts paid off: my belly became stronger and flatter.  In my enthusiasm, I think I may have overdone it because I’m not as excited about Pilates.  Perhaps I just need a new Pilates DVD to reignite my passion?

At any rate, tonight I did part of an old DVD that I used to do quite often: Crunch’s Fat Burning Pilates.  The instructor, Ellen Barrett, is really great—one of my favorites.  The DVD class is split into two parts: a cardio portion with Pilates-inspired techniques mixed into it and an actual Pilates floor routine.  The floor routine is only about 14 minutes long (I timed it tonight), but it feels very thorough to me, covering all the major abdominal muscle groups.  My favorite section includes hip circles and these weird twists you do while sitting, leaning back with your knees bent.  You hold your arms up, sort of like you would if you were driving, and you twist to one side, pulling that side’s arm back as though you were pulling back a bow to fire an arrow.  I like the way that move feels.

The title from today’s post comes from one of my other Pilates videos, in which Denise Austin says, while doing leg lifts or something, “Strong body, strong mind.”  Indeed!

Feeling Stretchy

Friday’s Yoga (7/30/10)

Yesterday at work, I got an impromptu invitation for a night on the town with my delightful friend Amutha.  I hate saying no, so I didn’t, which means I had about two hours in the evening to do a dinner + exercise combination.  It was a great excuse to dust off an old favorite: Dave Farmar’s Baptiste Power Yoga Flow #3, which may just be my very favorite class.  It’s awesome!

Cheapskate that I am, I chose the free 20-minute class.  Also, in the past, I’ve had trouble running the longer classes—the class stutters and stops, which really gets in the way of my groovy yoga flow.  I think short work-outs are great, so I have no issue doing 20 minutes of yoga and calling it a day.  I run around a lot at work, so I feel like I get a lot of “lifestyle” exercise, whether I want it or not.  Yoga feels wonderful and relaxing, and it even builds strength!  I am much more toned than I was eight years ago before I started yoga and when I ran much more often than I do now.

But whatever—yoga, running, biking, walking—it’s all good.  I just try to do something for my body every day.  That’s what works for me.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Just One

Thursday’s Run (7/29/10)

Three in a row!  I got three outside runs in a row!  It’s a miracle!  It’s hot and sweaty!  Still, the stars above me last night, as I trotted up and down my street for ten glorious minutes, were worth every extra drop of sweat that I experienced by NOT jumping on the treadmill.  Sidewalks, I have missed you.

Right now I am not systematically working on speed.  Last night’s run was ten easy-peasy minutes, probably about a mile total, and I feel just as happy running a mile right now as I will feel running ten miles in a few months.  The hard part is always just getting out there and putting one foot in front of the other.  Once I’m moving, I never have any doubt that I’ll finish my run.  The next month of work-outs is going to be very hard because the Texas heat is going to be terrible.  It already exhausts me.  My goal is to make it to the end of August with a solid base of twenty-minute runs under my feet.  And when I reach September, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief: now the fun part can begin.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

For the Back

Tuesday’s Yoga (7/27/10)

I’d been eyeing yogadownload’s Yoga for Back Pain for a while now because I, dear readers, have near-chronic back pain.  One of the reasons why I am so devoted to yoga is that it helps with my tight back and hips, therefore keeping me mobile.  I love how relaxed I feel after yoga, like I’ve been physically and mentally unrolled and massaged.  It’s wonderful.

The Yoga for Back Pain class is listed as a gentle beginner class, and I think that’s a good description, EXCEPT that there’s a bunch of ab work thrown into the mix!  I wasn’t expecting that!  It was kinda fun to get some bonus ab exercise, and the logic behind this makes sense: a healthy back requires strong abdominal muscles so that the back muscles aren’t constantly compensating for weak abs.  But I confess that when the instructor told me to do bicycle twists for a full minute, I had to stop and take a break.  Those twists are very challenging after a dozen or two!

The yoga back work was quite nice.  I don’t think any of the moves were new to me; I’d done them all in other classes, so it was easy to follow this audio-only class.  There were lots of forward folds, including one of my favorite moves, the gorilla move where you are bent forward and then you tuck your hands literally under your feet and bend your elbows, giving you a gorilla-like posture.  There’s something about the way the back rounds during that pose—it just feels great to me.

For future reference, I think Yoga for Back Pain isn’t quite as relaxing as the Hatha Yoga classes, but it’s nice to have another gentle yoga option.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Running Underneath a Blanket of Clouds

Monday’s Run (7/26/10)

Will wonders never cease?  I ran outside last night.  Wow.  It was awesome.  A storm system had drifted into the area, bringing with it rain, clouds, and cooler temperatures.  I must have been working when the rain fell in the afternoon; I saw puddles and clouds when I left work but the rain had stopped.  All the signs pointed to one thing: run outside now.

And so I did.  It’s hard for me to run outside these days.  My legs feel rusty, despite my treadmill running, but still, I was overjoyed to be outside, running, in Texas in July.  I was definitely not counting on any outdoor running this summer, so every time I get a few minutes of it, I am thrilled to pieces.  And so I run, slowly, a little painfully, and I think about how in a few months, every run can be outside.  I can’t wait.

Last night I ran an “easy” (meaning slow) 20 minutes out and back.  I was quite pleased that I ran without stopping, as one of my goals for the half-marathon is to take fewer walking breaks, which I think will be key to my reaching my big goal: to break two hours.  Right now, I cannot even imagine running for two hours, walking breaks or not, but I know it will happen.  Every enormous goal is really just a thousand tiny goals that add up to something great.  Last night was 20 minutes of goal-reaching one-foot-in-front-of-the-other running, no matter how slow it was.  It felt great.  Let’s do it again!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Intentions versus Reality

Sunday’s Yoga (7/25/10)

I want to like this Power Yoga #2 class.  Really, I do.  The title sounds like it’s going give me such a great work-out that I cannot help but love the idea.  Unfortunately, I cannot say I like this class.

At best, I would say this class has potential.  It’s not totally awful.  It is hard to follow because it is an audio-only class, although there is a pose guide that you can pause the class in order to consult if you are confused.  I looked over the poses before starting the class and paused it once to check a pose that was not clear to me.  It was warrior 2!  I know warrior 2!  Why didn’t the instructor just say warrior 2?  I find myself annoyed with moments like these during the class: the instructions are not clear but it’s a pose I know and could do, if only the instructor would just say the damn name!

It is not in the spirit of yoga to feel frustrated with a class—a FREE class.  It makes me feel really ungenerous to say these things.  At the beginning of the class, there’s even a breathing sequence during which the instructor asks you to give your practice today an intention (breathe in) and then let that intention out into the world (breathe out).  My intentions were grace and strength.  That’s what I’m always striving for, always trying to accomplish: to move through this world with grace and strength.  The reality is that sometimes I’m clumsy and messy and even weak.  Like today.  My arms and legs were exhausted by this yoga class—even downward dog made me ache.  I may have had low blood sugar.  To add to my woes, there are poses in this class that I can hold for about two seconds, such as the forward and lateral leg extensions.  Oof!  I want to try those again, on my own, because I think developing more one-legged balance will be good for my leg strength.  And after all, I am a runner, so strong legs are essential.

To replenish my blood sugar, I had the best snack after yoga: a strawberry-banana smoothie and a little ramekin of homemade granola.  It was perfect.  Snack time is the best.  Better than yoga, even.

Sunday Snack Time

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Be Free, Be Brave

Saturday’s Run (7/24/10)

For me, there is no comparison between running on a treadmill and running outside.  After weeks of treadmill-only running, today I seized the moment, laced up my sneakers, and ran outside.  It was glorious!

The sky was filled with clouds and occasionally a raindrop or two was slipping out of them.  Hidden behind the clouds was the sun.  Without the sun beating down on us from its perch in the sky, I thought that I might be comfortable enough to sweat outside.  My hope was that I could do a quick ten-minute run before the sun came back out in full force.  My plan worked: I did an around-the-neighborhood loop that gave me enough distance for ten minutes of running plus a few minutes of walking to warm up and cool down.  Those running minutes were hard, even though I went slow—I can tell that the treadmill is not quite cutting it for me.  But it will do until September or October, when I will resume longer runs outside.

Today was a nice reminder of all that I love about running outside: the smell of the air, the rhythm of my feet carrying me forward over the ground, that big Texas sky overhead.  It’s such an escape for me, for my mind and my body.  I run for peace of mind; anything on top of that is the cream cheese frosting on the mocha cake.

May our feet always feel fast and our legs strong.  Run happy!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

In Which I Keep My Word

I’ve been a busy bee, getting my legs in shape for the start of half-marathon training in September.  I even got in my run, as promised, on Sunday, and it was much easier than I expected, thanks to a little cheesy Food Network to keep me entertained.

I’m finding that one of the best ways for me to be outside in Texas right now is to go for a bike ride at dusk.  Though the air is still hot, the sun’s harsh glare has faded and the sunsets here are gorgeous.  On Saturday night, I rode the bike to and from Kohl’s, which is probably about two miles or so from my apartment.  It was a leisurely, meandering ride—very relaxing.  Does it still count as a work-out?  Absolutely!  Those pedals didn’t turn themselves, you know.

On Sunday, I laced up my running sneakers and hit the treadmill for 20 minutes straight.  I don’t remember the pace I chose—I may have gone with a 9:30 pace because I was feeling a bit sluggish that day—but no matter: the real point is the time spent running.  I finally figured out that channel 50 is the Food Network, and I tuned in just in time to see cakes being made on Kid in a Candy Store.  I felt a bit sickened by the Hostess part of the show—Twinkies and such have no appeal to me any more—but there was a really interesting segment where the host visits a restaurant in Chicago, where they make an old-fashioned German cake called Baumkuchen, or “tree cake.”  The cake is actually baked on a spit!  The spit is rotated through a vat of batter until the batter starts to stick to the rotating spit, then the cake is baked over an open heat source.  The process is repeated over and over, creating a thicker and thicker cake.  A full Baumkuchen is, I believe, three feet long, but the restaurant sells it in smaller sections for people to take home.

Anyway, so the Food Network is my new motivation for doing my treadmill work-outs.  Food Network is really cheesy, so I won’t watch it at home, but I’ll indulge in some cheese while running to nowhere on the treadmill.

On Monday, I took it easy and did some light stretching.  On Tuesday, I rode the bike to Kohl’s again, this time to buy a really cute sweater for myself.  Again, I went around dusk, but I ended up riding home in the dark—not the safest thing, for sure, but I got home without incident, thank goodness.  Finally, yesterday, Wednesday, I did a session of Gentle Hatha Yoga #2, which was wonderful.  The strange thing is that I woke up sore today!  I’m feeling something in my legs, especially my calves, but it’s not awful.  I’m still running around the lab today like I usually do.  It’s been a productive week at work, but I am really looking forward to the weekend.  TGIalmostF!

Friday, July 16, 2010


Bare Feet After Work

Wow.  I really don’t know what to say for myself.  I have totally dropped the ball on this blog, which is supposed to be a journal of my running work-outs and other fitness endeavors.  How could I not have posted anything since June 10?

I know why.  I can make a list: full-on Texas summer and a terrible meltdown about work that required a lot of my attention.  It took a while for me to calm down and get things back under control, but I think it’s safe to say that I’m feeling much better.  I’m ready to resume Feels Like Flying.  Also, as an added incentive to update this blog, I’m monetizing it.  I don’t expect to generate enough cash to pay for the shoe rubber I lose during a run, but I figure it can’t hurt.

This Texas summer is turning out to be more challenging than I anticipated.  Much of my motivation to exercise is the need to get outside, to feel small underneath the big blue sky, to feel the wind on my skin, to feel my feet fly over the ground.  But now, in the grips of high summer, it is very hard for me to spend much time outside.  I can handle a few minutes here and there, but for the most part, I’m an indoor cat now.  As a result, my running program has taken a hit.  The treadmill fails to inspire me, and I feel like I can only do yoga so many nights before I wonder if my legs remember how to run.

So I’ve declared a reboot on my running program and this blog.  My goal is now to make sure I can run a solid 20 minutes on the treadmill by the time September rolls around.  Since it’s only 20 minutes, it would be nice if I could keep up a good pace, such as an 8:30 mile.  That’s not too ambitious, I think, and it won’t require obscene amounts of time on the treadmill to do it.  The 20-minute-run goal fits into my larger half-marathon goal for 2011, which I will write about here…some day.  I hope.

The goal for this weekend: a 20-minute treadmill run, 9:00 mile pace.  I can do this.  I can do this.  I will do this.