Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sweating It Out

Wednesday’s Bike Ride (5/26/10)

Here in central Texas, summer is now ending and we are entering the season that I affectionately call hell.  This is my first summer in Texas, and I’ve been bracing myself for it ever since I decided to move here.

So far, it’s been manageable.  It is HOT.  I’m spending less time outside because the sun is really intense.  In the shade, or when the sun goes down, the temperature is actually quite nice.  But the sun is killer.

I don’t want to spend all my time inside from now until September.  I need to get outside at least a little bit each day.  And I hate the idea of not riding a bike outside for the next three months.  On Wednesday of last week, I rode the bike to and from work for a total of about 45 minutes.  It was an easy but sweaty ride.  I got to work with big drops of sweat rolling down my legs, so I mopped myself off before heading into the lab to start my work day.  At some point, I imagine I’ll start bringing a change of clothing with me to work when I ride the bike.  The sweating is only going to get worse!

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Tuesday’s Run (5/25/10)

Today I did something I haven’t done in a long, long time: I ran on a treadmill.

To be quite honest, I do not like working out in a gym.  I feel awkward and self-conscious, and I always feel like I’m being watched.  I prefer to run outside or work out at home doing something like yoga or Pilates.

But it’s getting really, really hot down here in Texas.  If I want to run this summer, I think it will be useful for me to do treadmill work-outs when the heat feels unbearable.  Plus the treadmill has its advantages, one of which I was happy to take tonight: I can run timed miles to see what certain paces feel like.  I don’t own any gadgets that will let me do this outside, so the treadmill is perfect here.  I also think that the treadmill makes it easier to run timed miles because it sets the pace for you, right under your feet.  You just have to run fast enough to keep up with it!

Tonight I ran 20 minutes without stopping, which was a victory in and of itself.  All of my outside runs have included walk breaks.  I really pushed myself tonight by running an 8-minute mile because I wanted to experience my target half-marathon pace.  It’s fast!  I can hardly imagine running 13 miles at that pace.  I’ve got my work cut out for me with this half-marathon.  I think the treadmill will be very useful for doing longer runs with timed miles, so I want to think about how I can structure a training schedule to include the treadmill.

Monday Yogi

Monday Night’s Yoga (5/24/10)

The work-out: Yoga for Strength #1.  This one is hard!  My thighs started burning during the warrior series, but I like how this class spends so much time in warrior poses—serious leg strengtheners!  Often I find that when I am guided through yoga by someone else’s cues, the warrior poses are not as long as I’d like.  But this class pushes my warrior limits.

My legs are a bit sore from yesterday’s run.  Also of fitness interest: when I was laying on the floor reading last night, I decided to do a bunch of close-arm (triceps) push-ups, and I’m feeling the effects tonight.  Whew!  These “tricep” push-ups are great, and I like how they are used in many of the yoga classes from  I don’t work my triceps very often, so it’s nice to discover a neglected body part and feel it working hard.

Night Runner

Sunday’s Run (5/23/10) 

I returned from Chicago very late on Saturday night, and it was so nice to come home.  To my surprise, by Sunday night, I was eager to lace up my sneakers and go for an easy run.  While I was on vacation in Chicago, I didn’t do any formal work-outs.  There was lots of walking and climbing of stairs to catch the el train, but my running shoes stayed in my suitcase.  Oh well.  Part of the reason I’m training now for a half-marathon in March of 2011 is that I want to have plenty of time for the weeks when I just don’t run.  Those weeks often happen when I’m on vacation because things get more chaotic for me when I’m not at home.  I love going away, but I also love returning to my routines at home.

Sunday night’s run was easy and wonderful: 20 minutes, 10 min. x 2 with 4 min. walk break.  I felt GREAT!  My legs were well-rested, though my right hip was hurting a bit at the start.  The day had cooled off, and there was a wonderful breeze too.  I felt like I could have run more, but I thought it was best if I stick to doing an easy run after a week off of serious exercise.

Playing Catch-up

Well!  I don’t know what to say for myself.  It’s been awfully quiet around here, which I blame on a long-anticipated trip to Chicago.  But here I am, ten thousand feet in the air, and I finally have some time to update this little journal of mine.  Fortunately, my exercise did not fall by the wayside in my frenzy of packing and cleaning, so here we go: a week’s worth of work-outs in one post. 

* Friday, May 7: A running work-out!  I bumped up my 2 x 10 minute work-out a tiny bit by making it 11 + 10: 11 minutes of running, 4 minutes of walking, 10 minutes of running.  This was great!  I felt strong and serene.  It was a hot and humid night, and there were storm clouds gathering overhead, but I had a great work-out.  And I was so glad I went, too—I felt much more relaxed after my run.  The post-run dinner was excellent too, worthy of a blog post itself.

Saturday and Sunday: No formal work-outs.  I rode my bike around town to do some shopping.

Monday, May 10:  Let the speed work begin!  One of my favorite speed work-outs is what I’ve always called a ladder: intervals of faster running that go up and then back down in steps.  For example, today I ran 1 minute fast, 1 minute slow, 2 minutes fast, 1 minute slow, 1 minute fast, and then returned to a slower pace to finish a 20-minute run.  It was hard!  Which is good.  It means that I was pushing my limits.

Tuesday, May 11: I felt awful, so I did some (untimed) bike-riding and aqua-jogging just because I thought they’d make me feel better.  They did.

Wednesday, May 12: I rode bike to/from work.  There was a ferocious wind on the ride to work.  I arrived with my legs drenched in sweat.  The ride was tiring, but I recovered quickly and had a good day at work.  (Estimated total riding time: 40-50 minutes.)

Later that day, before bed, I did Gentle Hatha Yoga #1—my favorite!  Ahhhh…

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I’m finishing this post many days after starting it.  I’m back in Texas after my week in Chicago, and I’m horribly behind on this blog, to the point where I’ve considered deleting it.  It’s so sad!  But I will forge on because this one’s for me.

Also, I have another six-legged roommate.  He likes to stare at himself in the mirror.  And yes, I am quite certain that this fly is a he.  Six years of graduate school and I can sex the fruit flies that have invaded my home.  Woot!

My Winged Roommate

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Nice and Slow

Thursday’s Yoga and Meditation (5/06/10)

I see that I am three days behind in my work-out posts, but that’s okay.  My memory isn’t so decrepit that I can’t remember what happened three days ago.  Wait, what were we talking about?

With all the biking and running that I’ve been doing, I feel like yoga is essential to stretch out my back and my legs.  The two places where I really feel the soreness from working out are my lower back and my hamstrings.  A few years ago, when I was doing my teaching assignment in graduate school, I taught two biology lab sections on back-to-back days.  After running around the teaching lab for three hours straight, I would go home, bend over and touch my toes, and just hang there.  It felt so good—my hamstrings stretching, my back relaxing after being upright all day.  I’m tempted to think that I do yoga just for my back.

Before yoga, I was not feeling so great.  All day I had been nursing a headache and I was in the worst mood.  I also suspected I might be getting sick, and today I’m still suspicious that my body might be fighting something.  It’s hard to tell if you don’t develop more severe symptoms—is it just crankiness or boredom or is it something more serious?

Given my fragile state, I did a very easy yoga routine from Lunar Flow.  It was nice and slow, a good choice.  I think this class is better for relaxation than the strength or flexibility benefits one can get from yoga classes.  It’s wonderful to have so many yoga options, from the very challenging Yoga for Strength to soothing Hatha Yoga to the flowing Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga.  I love them all.

After Lunar Flow, I splurged a tiny bit and bought a 99-cent session of Relaxing Meditation.  This class uses repetition of deep breathing exercises to calm the mind and the body.  It worked for me: I came out of the meditation feeling very relaxed!  It’s hard for me to relax, so I’m willing to spend a little money on things that help me to relax.  If I’m spending money on something, I feel like I have to get my money’s worth, so a meditation class is perfect for me!  I’m looking forward to trying more of their classes for yoga and meditation.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Focus on Relaxing

Honestly, I really wanted to skip the running work-out I had planned for tonight.  I wanted to take a nap instead.  Then I wanted to eat a big bowl of cereal for dinner and curl up with my book.  I went running instead.

It was quite hot today, so before lacing up my sneakers, I loafed around for about an hour, reading, hydrating, and thinking about a nap.  I settled instead on trying to be in bed by 10 PM tonight.  I think I’m not getting quite enough sleep, and it’s making me a little cranky.

I did an out-and-back run, repeating my 2 x 10 minutes + 5 minute walk break routine.  This work-out is starting to feel easier, which is a good sign.  The last 2 minutes of running were hard, and I had to focus on finishing them.  Whenever I start counting the amount of time or number of miles I have left to run, it’s a sign that I’m feeling tired.  In those moments, I find that it’s really important to focus on relaxing and breathing evenly.  Sometimes I have to shake out my shoulders and arms, which often become tired and tense from running.  I’m kind of a tense person, and running is a way of forcing my body to loosen up and relax into the rhythm.

Dinner felt like a very nice reward after my run: black bean tostadas with a side of lettuce straight from the package.  And for dessert: that bowl of cereal I’ve been craving since 5 PM.  And then maybe, just maybe, an early bedtime for me.  Even night owls need their beauty sleep.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Easy Rider

Today I did the easiest and most convenient workday work-out: I rode a bike to and from work.

Blue Lightning

My awesome friend Amutha has loaned me her bike indefinitely, and I have been having a lot of fun with this set of wheels.  Having a bike makes it much, much easier to get around town for fun and errands.  I find bike-riding to be very relaxing, perhaps because my bike work-outs are easy—transportation with a side benefit.  It’s also nice to take a break from riding the bus.  The bus wears on my nerves, though I know I shouldn’t complain because it’s free and a pretty quick ride to and from campus.  But whatever: it’s the bus and it’s public transportation, so you get what they give you.  Sometimes I like a little more independence in my commute.

It takes about 25 minutes for me to ride from home to work.  That time includes the pauses for traffic lights and slowing down to avoid pedestrians.  I was surprised that it’s only 25 minutes—I thought it would be longer.  So that makes for roughly 45-50 minutes of easy riding today—not too shabby!

It’s starting to get a little late, and I’m still thinking about making no-bake chocolate peanut butter cookies.  Sometimes I just need to clatter about with my pots and pans, even if it means going to bed with a messy kitchen.  Such is the life of a home cook.

Let Go

Monday Night’s Yoga (5/03/10)

Because I am prone to stiffness and back pain, I try to do yoga at least two times a week.  I like to do yoga sessions in between cardio work-outs—it’s a nice break and it helps to undo all the soreness that cardio can induce.  I’ve been doing yoga for years now, and I do believe that it’s made me stronger and leaner.  But the reason I continue to do it is for peace of mind.

I’m really enjoying the Hatha yoga work-outs offered by  They are the most relaxing yoga work-outs that I’ve tried yet!  I usually do them at night just before bed.  I get the best sleep after Hatha yoga.

Last night I did Gentle Hatha Yoga #1, an old favorite.  I started my yoga session feeling agitated about an e-mail exchange with a friend and the deeper issues underlying it.  My mind kept drifting back to its agitated state even as I tried to breathe my way to peacefulness.  Let go, I urged myself.  Just let go.  But sometimes my mind is like a dog with a bone, and it just can’t drop it.  So I continued to breathe and stretch, and it felt good.  By the end, even though I never managed to let go, I did feel better—more peaceful, more relaxed—and afterward I slept like a rock.  

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Part Where I Huff and Puff

This morning I woke up to find that I have a new roommate.

My New Roommate

He’s been sleeping all morning.  Before I left for my run, I asked him to clean the apartment for me.  I figure it’s the least he can do if he’s going to stay here without paying rent.

On Sundays, I like to run in the late morning, about two hours after I finish breakfast.  I do not like to run before I’ve eaten anything, and I prefer to eat a full breakfast before I run and then let my belly digest things for a while.  My breakfast routine is usually either oatmeal or cold cereal, and this morning it was a bowl of banana oatmeal topped with lots of goodies: dried cherries, chocolate chips, sliced almonds, and a spoonful of peanut butter.  My breakfasts are always kinda hefty because I’m a calorie-burning machine, and I need my fuel.

A Bowl of Goodies

This morning’s run was a repeat: 2 x 10 minutes with 5 minutes walking in between sets.  Starting off, I felt sluggish and slow, and my breathing was really struggling.  Every footfall felt jarring, like I could feel the world moving up and down as I bounced along.  About 3 minutes into my run, I decided to slow down my pace so that I could breathe more easily.  That was much better.  To make up for my slow starting pace, I decided to run the second 10 minutes slightly faster than usual—nothing outrageous, just a tiny bit of a pick-up.  It worked well: my breathing was easier and my legs were fine.  By the end, I felt like I had a nice work-out, despite the rough start.

And now, I’m free for the rest of the day!  I’ve got a few items on my to-do list, but most of it is fun stuff, so that makes me happy.  I love Sundays.


Saturday’s Aqua-Jog (5/1/2010)

In Texas, it is considered essential to have easy access to a pool.  I am starting to see their point.  This weekend is the first real wave of serious heat and humidity that we’ve seen this year.  To me, a diehard Northerner, it feels like full-on summer.  After all those years in the Frozen North, I’m still enjoying the heat of a Texas spring.  I have yet to turn on the air-conditioner, but I know it’s coming…just not today.

When I’m following a running schedule, I tend to run three days a week with one longer run on the weekend.  I usually do not run two days in a row; instead, I play those in-between days by ear, doing something fun like yoga or a long walk.  Now that I have access to a pool and a bike, I’m adding swimming and cycling into my options.  Today I went aqua-jogging for 20 minutes.  My pool is only 4 feet deep, and even though I’m really short, my head is still above 4 feet of water.  Aqua-jogging is exactly what it sounds like: running in water.  In deeper pools, you can aqua-jog while wearing a life vest.  For a runner, it’s a very restorative exercise option because it loosens up your muscles without the pounding of running on land.  In my shallow pool, my feet do hit the bottom, but the impact is very minimal because of the water’s resistance.  I probably look ridiculous while I aqua-jog, but I don’t care.  I’m not at the pool to impress anyone with my mad skills. 

Today was my third day of aqua-jogging.  It is an easy work-out for me, but I was pleased when I noticed that my legs started feeling tired after 12 minutes.  I took it as a sign that my legs are working during this work-out.  To add some variety to the aqua-jogging, I like to try different drills in the water.  Sometimes I try to bound from one foot to the other; other times I work on my stride turnover, trying to make my feet move faster.  And sometimes I jump up onto a step and make a big splashy LEAP into the pool.  I love that.

After finishing my work-out, I hunted for lizards around the pool yard.  I found a tiny one, but by the time I ran home, grabbed my camera, and came back, he was gone.  All I got was this picture of my own legs.

Looking for Lizards

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I Do What It Takes

Friday’s Run (4/30/2010)

I am not above bribery to make myself go running.

I knew it was going to be a long day at work, but I really didn’t want to use that as an excuse not to go running.  My last run was on Sunday, almost a week ago, and I had hoped to get another run in before the weekend.  One of my short-term goals is to ease myself back into running so that I can build up my running distance to about 5 or 6 miles per run.  This goal is part of a longer-term goal that I want to write about in more detail in the near future, so suffice to say that I’m doing short, easy runs that I’ll gradually lengthen.  I’m also doing a lot of cross-training because I’ve fallen in love with the fun of being able to bike and swim whenever I want.  I’ve never had that kind of flexibility before, and I’m living it up.

I decided the best way to get myself ready to run would be to unwind for a little bit.  Laying on the floor seemed like an excellent idea, so I did.

I Love Laying on the Floor

Then I made myself a small snack.  I am crazy about Carr’s Whole Wheat Crackers.  They’re sweet and crumbly and just perfect with peanut butter.  (They’re also great with a salty cheese or a smear of cream cheese topped with strawberries—instant cheesecake!  Yum.)


And with this snack in my belly, I was out the door.  My runs will be short and easy for the next month or two, and tonight’s run was 20 minutes: 2 10-minute sets with a 5-minute walking break between the sets.  It was a very humid night, but because I left around 8 PM to run, the heat had faded a little bit.  The first 10-minute set was hard as my lungs worked to keep up with my legs, but the second 10-minute set felt great.  I find it’s often the case the my legs and my lungs are not equally matched: on days my legs are exhausted, my lungs are feeling great.  On days that my legs are well-rested and fresh, my lungs are a little more taxed by the effort.  The days when they come together and work in perfect harmony are the best.

Overall, it was a great run: short and sweet with no pain.

A Starting Line

I do not love running.

Running is hard.  It’s repetitive.  Put one foot in front of the other, over and over, and do it fast, and you are running.  Wise people have said to me, “I only run when chased.”

I see their point.

Running has hurt me, injured me, and swallowed up enormous chunks of my life.  It has left me temporarily crippled, hobbling around like an old lady, for days.  It led me thisclose to breaking my femur.  Even on the good days, running requires sweat, huffing and puffing, and endless loads of laundry.  Running is a sport for the stubborn, maybe even the stupid.

I am a runner.

I’ve been running on and off for ten years now.  My running career started in college when I decided that I wanted to run cross-country.  I went to a teeny-tiny school where the cross-country team welcomed runners of all levels.  It was a tremendous gift, joining a group of passionate runners who showed up, ready to run, every single day.  We all knew what a gift it was to have running friends, and we cherished those sun-dappled autumn days, running through, in, and around Albion, Michigan.  I miss those days.

In the years after I graduated from college, my running days became more sporadic.  I still fancied myself a runner, but my runs were short.  After finishing an undergraduate degree in chemistry and neuroscience, I moved to the Chicago area—Evanston, specifically—and started a PhD program in neuroscience at Northwestern University.  To state the obvious, grad school was tough.  Running was no longer a priority, and life in the city made it easy to stay fit by walking everywhere—to the grocery store, to campus, to the train station.  At some point in grad school, I learned I had lost twenty-something pounds compared to my weight in college.  I miss those pounds.

And at some point, I decided that I missed running too.  I missed the seriousness that accompanies training for a big event—a 5K race, a ten-mile fun run.  While in grad school, I set my sights on something even bigger: a half-marathon.  At 13.1 miles, a half-marathon was just a few miles longer than my longest run at that time, a ten-miler.  The half felt like an attainable goal, and it was: I came in at just over two hours.  I am so proud of that accomplishment.

Goals are really great.  It’s great to have them, and it’s great to achieve them.  But I think true happiness comes from enjoying the process that must unfold between setting a goal and reaching it.  So I ask myself, Why do I run?  Because it’s not like I’m racing every weekend or even every month.  Nor do I crave that intensity in my athletic life right now.  I have a full-time job that keeps me running around most days.  I want to have enough energy for my job, my running, and maybe a night out with friends every week or two.  And given the fact that running is messy, time-consuming, and exhausting, I ask myself again, Why do I run?

Because it feels like flying.

I run because there’s nothing else like it.  The simplicity of it, the challenge, the fact that it welcomes all who wish to participate.  Running is a beautiful sport.  It can be a social event or a chance to bask in one’s own company.  It can be as easy or as hard as you want to make it.  Turtles and speed-demons can run in the same races, and the demons can cheer on the turtles when they finally cross the finish line.

I run because it rewards my dedication and discipline.  It’s predictable that way, and yet you can still surprise yourself by running faster and harder than you thought possible.  Life doesn’t always reward loyalty, but running does.  I like that.

This blog is my journal about running and other adventures—biking, swimming, and eating.  I want to be more deliberate in recording my work-outs and reflecting on how I am doing.  I’m a scientist and a writer, and I believe in the power of data and observations.  I love the idea of keeping a record of my athletic pursuits.  This blog is a selfish endeavor on my part, meaning that I’m writing it first and foremost for myself.  Almost three years of writing a food blog have taught me that we must write for ourselves—writing is its own reward.  I believe in writing.  But I also know that I have found tremendous inspiration from other people who have opened their computers and lives to the world through their blogs, and I like the idea of having something to share with others.  You never know who might find you and find inspiration in what you are doing.

Before I go, I ought to tell you a little about myself.  My name is Rose-Anne, and I’m 28 years old.  I live in College Station, Texas, and I am a research scientist at Texas A & M Health Science Center.  I’m a long-time vegetarian and lover of nature.  I’m a single woman, and I’ve been dating the same guy for close to three years.  Matt is not a runner, but he is my biggest cheerleader.

I’m a recent transplant to Texas.  I finished my PhD work in September 2009 and moved down here for my new job in October 2009.  My friends and family live in the North, mostly in Chicago and Michigan.  Though I miss them all terribly, I’ve been pretty happy in Texas.  I don’t know how long I’ll be down here, so I’m enjoying it while I can.  In March 2010, I ran a half-marathon here, the 4th Annual Armadillo Dash.  I can’t wait to do it again next year.

And with that, we’re off and running!