Friday, April 27, 2012

“Stay with me”

Week of April 22, 2012:

Wednesday: Speed work-out!  Details below

Thursday: Bike ride commute (so sweaty…)

Friday: Off (Wait. Does a slow and leisurely walk to the wine bar count as exercise?)

Please tell me I’m not the only one who talks to herself during her runs.

(I’m not the only one.  Am I?  Do you do this too?)

Maybe I am crazy, holding entire conversations with myself, but when I run, I tend to either zone out completely or I start trying to unravel something that’s been bothering me.  I might work on a work issue, or think about my relationships, or just plan my grocery list.  I don’t run with music or any form of entertainment, so it’s just me, my moving feet, and the road ahead of us.  I like that simplicity.

This week, I decided to mix things up a bit, and I did some speedwork on Wednesday.  Instead of doing my normal 25-minute short run, I warmed up with 5 min. of walking, 10 min. of easy running, and then I alternated 1 min. hard running with 1 min. easy jogging, repeating that 1-1 series 4 times.  I certainly have not been doing speedwork lately, but the idea of doing something different really appealed to me.

I found, as I was doing my hard minutes, that it was so tempting to just zone out, to try to distance my mind from the pain of running hard.  I think we can all agree that running hard is hard.  It is painful, not in an injury sense, but in a discomfort sense.  As I felt myself trying to zone out, something inside me would catch it and say, Stay with me.  Stay focused.  And I would do just that: I would think about keeping good form on top (arms moving, shoulders back, eyes forward) and keeping my legs going.  I would focus on trying to breathe as evenly as possible, which was really hard, because my lungs were definitely not able to keep up with my legs.  My legs actually felt really great, flying along the sidewalk, but my breathing was pretty hard, so I had to pace myself to make sure my lungs could keep up their end of the bargain.

And then, eight challenging minutes later, it was over.  I felt good.  I felt eager for more speedwork.  There’s nothing like speedwork to make you really appreciate your easy runs, and I think I’m up for the challenge of doing something other than my normal slow-and-steady runs.  Next week: perhaps intervals of 2 min. hard, 2 min. easy?  2 or 3 repeats?  I’m already looking forward to it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Not So Sweet

Week of April 22, 2012:

Sunday: Long run

Monday: Light yoga (~10 minutes?)

Tuesday: Bike ride commute

When you write a blog about exercising outside, it’s impossible to not talk about the weather all the time.  Or maybe it’s just me.  I’m very sensitive to the weather—I respond to it viscerally, as I suspect many of us do.  Here in Texas, we’ve had a really lovely April, with cool mornings, warm afternoons, and oodles of sunshine.  Gorgeous!  It hasn’t been very hot either, which is in sharp contrast to last April, when the temperatures were already approaching unbearable highs, which left me very scared about what things would look like in June.  Yikes!

On Sunday, I set out for my long run, hoping to clock 50 minutes.  I left around noon, well-hydrated and well-fed and feeling fine.  From there, I proceeded to have my worst long run since that infamous one in February, the one where I cried almost nonstop for 90 minutes.  By comparison, Sunday’s run wasn’t that bad—it wasn’t heartbreaking!—but I became overheated early in the run and slogged my way through the miles.  I think it was about 70 degrees F when I set out for my run, which doesn’t seem too hot, but the warmth was just not agreeing with me, and I can’t help but remember that two days before that, it was cold and windy and very un-Texas-like during my run.

I don’t think the problem with Sunday’s run was the temperature per se, but the fact that I’m just not used to running in the heat these days.  When the weather swings wildly from day to day, I think it can be hard for the body to adjust, and when you add extra factors, like hard winds or really bright (hot!) sunshine, it just cranks up the discomfort.  I don’t know.  Am I just whiny?

Maybe.  Mostly I’m just bummed because I thought Sunday’s run would be awesome.  I’d be back in the sweet spot of running 5 miles in one work-out.  Longer runs lend themselves to a more Zen state of running—your body and your mind become one, and you can sort of float along as they do their thing.  It’s very relaxing.  I’m hoping that next weekend’s run will bring me closer to Zen.

On a completely unrelated note, this week I celebrated the inaugural pedicure of the warm season.  I just love this red color, OPI’s “An Affair in Red Square.”  Appropriately enough, I did my toes while watching Caramel, a Lebanese film about several women and the beauty parlor they run.  It was pretty good—a sweet, sad, ironic film.  I have such a fondness for films that focus on women’s friendships.  It’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with Sex and the City.  I totally thought I would hate it, but I ended up liking the series quite a bit.  The eye candy wasn’t bad either!

Check out the new color!

April Pedicure in Red

(I’m sorry the photo isn’t better.  I took it Monday night, and you can tell that the lighting was terrible!)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Unruly Skirts and Chilly Muscles

Hi There

Birds of a feather…

Week of April 15, 2012:

Thursday: Bike commute + grocery shopping (I always seem to be grocery shopping, eh?  With my shopping habits, I think I should move to Europe.)

Friday: Short run + biking to and from my favorite park

Saturday: Bike ride for (wait…can you guess?) more food and a very s-l-o-w walk

I have two fitness-related stories to tell you.  The first involves this very unruly, very cute black pencil skirt.

Nothing but Trouble

(Wait, do pencil skirts have slits?  What exactly is a pencil skirt?  I think of it as a slim, column-like skirt, knee-length or thereabouts.  To my mind, it has no flare to it, no A-line shape, nothing of the sort.  Fashion-minded friends, what say you?  Am I close?)

Anyway, over the last year or two, I’ve been learning which clothes are good for bike-commuting and which ones do not work.  I thought this skirt would be awesome: it’s not too long, has some stretch, and it’s black, so when I arrive to work and I’m a little sweaty, it’s harder for others to tell.  As an aside, I have to say, I really don’t worry too much about a little sweat.  I’m lucky that my work environment is very casual, and I feel like most people kinda get it: Texas is a sweaty, sweaty place.  Or most people are too polite to say anything, unlike that one time in the bathroom where some woman probably thought I peed my pants and had to comment on it.  I should have told her I have a disorder and HOW RUDE OF HER TO BE SO UNKIND TO ME!


My skirt and I had the best intentions, but when I wore it for Thursday’s bike rides, it kept flying up!  I have no idea what other people could see during my wardrobe malfunction, but it was really annoying for me.  The slits facilitated my flying skirt—it was that front panel that kept flying up whenever a gusty wind blew in the wrong direction.  If I wear it again for biking, I am going to have to wear some shorts underneath because it was ridiculous, trying to pedal while holding my skirt down with one hand.  Ridiculous!

On Friday evening, I set out for my run.  I decided to mix things up by biking to my favorite park and doing my 25 minutes of running around the mile-long loop.  We’ve had some unusually chilly weather lately, and it was cold enough on Friday that I actually wore running tights.  On top I wore a t-shirt, which turned out not to be enough.  I was freezing during my bike ride to the park because the wind was really working hard out there.  I was warm enough once I started running, but as soon as I was on my bike again, I was so, so cold.  I got home, and as I tried to wash my hands, I literally felt like my arm muscles were locking up—they were just so cold.  I wondered if my arms felt weak because of nutrition or exhaustion because it was such a strange sensation—I didn’t have goosebumps, just a horrible fatigue and not everywhere, just my arms.  It was very weird.

I’ve had a really nice, lazy, indulgent day today.  I feel slightly guilty that I was not more productive, but I am hoping that tomorrow I will get myself organized and ready for the new week.  I have a lot I’d like to accomplish, work-wise, as well as lots of personal goals for the day.  50-minute run, anyone?  JD’s counting on me to be in good running shape in two months, and I can’t let him down!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Single Goal for June’s 10K Race

Flowers and Rock

Week of April 8, 2012:

Wednesday: Off (having fun with JD and The Wife!  His Wife, not my Wife.)

Thursday: Bike commute + grocery shopping

Friday: Short run (25 minutes, I think)

Saturday: Bike ride + more grocery shopping

Week of April 15, 2012:

Sunday: More bike riding, this time for toilet paper(!?!)

Monday: Long run (40 minutes)

Tuesday: Bike ride commute

Wednesday: Off eating veggie burgers and sweet potato fries with friends at Grub

Whew! I didn’t mean to miss our unofficial date on Sunday, and by “date,” I mean blog post.  I was wiped out this weekend.  Last week was eventful: my grants were submitted, JD and Anne surprised me with a visit to College Station, and I started to mentally transition back into my normal research-and-experiments routine.  When you’ve finished a major project at work, I think it’s hard to shift gears into something different, and I’m still trying to find my groove again.  I’ll get there, especially now that I have a new plan for my experiments.

But I won’t torture bore annoy make you listen to me talk about my job.  That’s what my colleagues are for!  They have to put up with me—it’s in their contracts.  (I’m so blessed to have good co-workers who put up with me, even if the testosterone:estrogen ratio is extremely high.)  I’ll just say it’s been a good week for exercise: the weather has been beautiful, I’ve been excited to get outside and run, and the running has been good.  Monday’s long run was really nice, and I’m feeling ready to bump the long run up to 50 minutes this weekend.  I want to be in good shape for June’s 10K, which I registered for recently.  And a 10K means I need to be running 60-70 minutes on my long runs in order to have a good race!

JD and I are running this one together.  We haven’t talked about it, but I plan on running it with him and not worrying about my time.  I expect he’ll give me a good run for my money because he’s faster and stronger than he realizes.  More than anything, I just want to have a fun race.  It’s been a long, long time since I’ve raced with a friend, and I think it’s going to be awesome.

And so: long runs ahoy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Two in a Row!?!

Empty Pool_Bummer

Flowers and Feet

Happy Palm Trees

Week of April 8, 2012:

Monday: Short run (25 min.)

Tuesday: Bike ride commute

BIG NEWS THIS WEEK: I ran two days in a row.  And I didn’t die!

I can’t remember the last time I ran two days in a row, so this week is a momentous one.  Also momentous: the submission of both of the grants that I’ve been working on for over three months!  I was so happy, even triumphant, about completing the grants that I came home on Monday and had to celebrate by going for a run.  It was a nice one, too—my legs felt solid and the pace was good, not too fast and not too slow.  I wonder if I could get into this habit of running on consecutive days…it might help with my consistency if I had more of a streak each week.

I didn’t run today, so I suppose my streak for now is only two days.  It’s nice, though, that since my goal is to run three days a week, I’ve already knocked out two runs and it’s only Tuesday!  In other news, my apartment pool sadly remains empty.  They’re supposed to be fixing the pool, but it’s been empty for weeks now.  I feel a pool kinda mood coming on—I’m ready for a swimsuit and some water.  Until the pool is fixed, I’ll just have to enjoy the poolside flowers, which smell amazing, and the palm trees, which are incredibly happy after all the rain we got this winter.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the palm trees look so green and perky here!  I’m glad they’re happy—usually they look desiccated and sickly, with brown leaves and sad faces.  Okay, palm trees don’t have faces, but if they did, they would be smiling right now.

A question for you, dear readers: do you like to run on consecutive days?  Do you ever get into the habit of running every day and then feel awful when you have to break the chain?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Birds and Butterflies

Week of April 1, 2012:

Friday: Off

Saturday: Bike ride + grocery shopping on two wheels

Week of April 8, 2012:

Sunday: Long run!  40 minutes nonstop, comfortable pace.

No, not birds and bees, birds and butterflies.  I didn’t see any bees today, and there will be no naughty business in this post.  Scout’s honor.

I went for a really awesome, mind-clearing run this morning.  As you may recall, in the last three months or so, running has become my new rock, something that I rely upon to keep me on an even keel.  Exercise in general is my antidote to stress, but there’s something about the intensity of running that has been the perfect counterweight to the upheaval in my life.  I can be rather lazy, and maintaining a regular running routine is something with which I struggle.  But this week, my plan is to run three times, and then do it again next week, and the week after…in other words, I want my rock back.

Back to this morning.  It was gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous, and not too hot.  The birds were chattering to each other, and butterflies were floating around.  The butterflies in fact seemed to be pacing me as they touched down alongside my path and then floated ahead of me, effortlessly, as I chased after them.  Spring really is a magical season in Texas.

On a totally unrelated note, I need your opinions, dear readers.  Yesterday my friend Christy and I went to Plato’s Closet for some excellent secondhand shopping, and I bought this shirt.  Today, I think I’m dressed like a Boy Scout.  What do you think?

Dressed Like a Boy Scout Perhaps

(I apparently have a deep love for patterned shirts from Forever 21, as I now own three.  Three!  But I’ve bought all of them secondhand, for 5 or 6 bucks each.  Not too shabby, eh?)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Feels Like Spring

Blurry Field of Flowers

A Favorite Side Street

Week of April 1, 2012:

Monday: Yoga

Tuesday: Bike ride commute (with pit stop for groceries)

Wednesday: Short run (25 min.)

Thursday: Bike ride commute

Spring really has arrived: long evenings, wildflowers, seasonal fresh strawberries, mosquitoes, even shorts.  Spring in Texas is more like summer in the northern United States, and I try to soak it all up in anticipation of the indoor season.  It’s been very humid lately, and I even broke down and turned on the air conditioner once before bed because I felt so hot and sticky.  But even with the humidity and the mosquito bites (another first of the season—I got four of ‘em on Tuesday night), it’s been really beautiful.  I’m grateful for it because the outdoors have given me a very convenient escape when I’ve been sitting at my computer for too long, and when I return from a walk, I feel refreshed and ready for some more work.

Happy almost-Friday, my dears!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

How Timely!

New Watch

Week of March 25, 2012:

Thursday: Short run, 20 min. (a small victory over inertia, but victory nonetheless)

Friday: Off (so…tired…)

Saturday: Grocery shopping on two wheels

Week of April 1, 2012 (no foolin’!):

Sunday: “Long” run (20 min. run, 10 min. walk break, 10 min. run)

I finally bought myself a new running watch!  It only took me, uh, six months.  Embarrassing, I know.  As much as I believe it was fine to run with my kitchen timer, it is really nice to have my timer strapped to my wrist now—the fewer things I have to carry while running, the better!  And I like my new watch.  It’s got snazzy colors and it beeps pleasantly whenever I start or stop it.

Do you guys subscribe to Runner’s World?  I do not, but I did pick up a copy at the grocery store.  There’s an article this month on a woman, Erin Henderson, with twelve (12!) children who runs marathons.  Nine of her children are adopted from countries outside the United States.  That fact alone makes me ask myself, What more can I do to help others?  But back to her running: Erin runs 75 miles a week and has a marathon PR of 3:27:14.  I’m just in awe.  During my good running weeks, I run three days a week and log about 10-12 miles total.  (I also bike quite a few miles each week, but I’m not trying to quibble…)

Erin’s example makes me wonder if I could do more and if I should do more.  I don’t know.  I’m not a big fan of comparing myself to others because it’s a loser’s game, but still: 12 kids, 75 miles a week, and sub-four-hour marathons.  It’s pretty incredible.  And maybe with her example in mind, I can up my game, just a notch or two.

What about you? How do you handle the only-too-human impulse to compare yourself to others and their accomplishments?  How do you buck yourself up when you are feeling inadequate?