Monday, February 22, 2010

Aches and pains

I woke up with sheer excitement, happiness and energy following yesterday's great run. I took a moment to take it all in, breathing in, exhaling with joy, and proceeded to take a leap of faith off my bed to welcome a new day full of opportunity. My leg swung over the ledge of the bed, touched the floor and then...the pain! One step forward, ouch, one more, ouch, and so began my slow descent down the stairs. I think I was more gracious walking at 9 months pregnant than I was today going down those stairs. But the pain only means that my body is working, so I decided to suck it up, and pretend nothing was wrong with me at all.

I could have fooled everyone too if it weren't for the uncontrollable cursing that came out frequently during the day. Tyler made fun of me in the nice, loving way that he does, theorizing that the only reason I cursed was to get attention. As if.....But no, the cursing was just a primal response to the aches and pain. I got to know a whole new set of muscles I never had awareness of before.

I was actually pretty happy to feel the aches and pain. It was sure proof of my body working and it felt great. Parts of me probably did want somebody to come up to me and say "Geez woman, you're walking all crooked-like, are you ok?" just so I could scream to the World: "That's cause I just ran 12 km, ya all!!!"

Now most reasonable people would probably just take a day off, stretch on the couch, watch the Olympic athletes do all the work for a change, but not me. Instead, I decided that the only way to cure the pain was to give my body...more pain. Logical isn't it?

I had been wanting to try a Hot Power Yoga class for some times now and had always found a good reason to wuss out. But because I'm now determined to face my fears, I just said that there would be no excuses today. I also thought that practicing yoga in a hot room would actually help my muscles stretch and my body feel better.

I have practiced yoga sporadically over the years, but have been wanting to get back into it regularly, hoping the benefits of yoga would help me manage my anxiety. Tonight's class was incredible. My body responded to the majority of the poses and it made me feel strong. I was worried about sweating in the hot room, but it was actually a great feeling and made the whole class seem even more of a workout. By the end of the one hour class, I was beyond happy.

Of course, 10 minutes later, my body reminded me that it's still a work in progress as new sets of muscles awakened and started aching in other places I didn't know existed. I might be walking crooked and cursing a lot, but trust me, right now, I wouldn't trade the aches and pain for nothing.

Tomorrow is a day of running. I look forward to seeing what I can do.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Misery likes company

Today was the day of my long run. Once a week, I need to run a long distance to condition myself for the half-marathon. A long distance to me, is more than I've ran before: 10 km and up. It's a lot easier to run long distances when you have a running budy (you know, misery likes company), so Tyler and I decided to hire a sitter for two hours so we could go on our long run together. Up to now, I would have turned away from spending money on a sitter to go for a run, but this year, it seems like a very smart investment: Not only are we training, but we get to talk with no interruptions for two hours! It's a date with fitness benefit, so it's well worth the money spent on babysitting.

We started really slowly. The weather was perfect. It had stopped snowing and the temperature was really mild. There was a bit of a wind at the start but it wasn't nasty. We decided to take a route on the outskirts of North Gower, going by dirt roads and seeing lots of nice scenery. Because we were going slow, the run was definitely manageable and dare I say, enjoyable.

It seemed very easy for the longest part and even as we progressed the physical fatigue didn't really kick in until the very end. At that point, we also kicked up the pace which made keeping my breath a lot harder too. But I felt fantastic and it was great to have fun while running.

We ended up running for 1hr46mn for a total of 12.280 kilometers. I was really disappointed as I felt I had run farther than that, more like 14 km. Somehow, at first, 12.28 km didn't seem like a big sucess. I think my expectations were that if I was going to run farther than I ever had, it was going to be by a long shot, not by 1 km.

Thankfully, I found some good perspective once I started thinking about the number some more. Two weeks ago, I did not exercise at all and made other things my priority. In 10 days, I've managed to run 5 times and accomplished a 12 km run. I had never run that long before and to have come so far in 10 days is huge. I think I worry about how long I will have to run to complete the marathon, but I will take it one day at a time. If on the half-marathon day my run can be as much fun as it was today, with just 9 more kilometres to go from today's distance, then I'll be feeling incredible.

Friday, February 19, 2010

On Nutrition (following a meal I'm not so proud of)

Thinking of food as fuel for my body has never really been my focus. I love food and eat a lot. Too much actually and I often indulge in my cravings. As I learn ways to manage my anxiety, I am more aware of the connection between food and my state of mind. I know that if I'm stressed or tired, I'll be craving unhealthy foods because they make me feel better instantly. But the more comfort food I eat, the more cravings I have. It's a vicious cycle which is very hard to break.

As I start on my running journey, I now have to take a look at food as my body's fuel. I know that making the right food choices will improve my endurance and performance, as well as my anxiety. Changing eating habits is going to be crucial and I am going to need to learn a lot more about which food in what quantities will give me the best nutrition to run the half-marathon. Jeff Galloway, a renowned running expert, advocates eating small meals every two hours to avoid hunger and maintain energy levels, rather than the traditional three meals per day. I like the idea and might give it a try.

I have actually noticed that I seem to be hungry all the time since I started running. My body seems to be giving me signs that it needs more regular refueling. I am craving carbs and tonight indulged in a veggie burger with fries and onion rings. Yikes...that's probably the nutritional equivalent of filling up a car with oil. Not the smartest decision.

So in the days ahead, in addition to my physical training and mental conditioning, I will need to put more energy into the nutritional choices I make. It will be interesting to see how my running improves. Not that I'll ever challenge Usain Bolt.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

That nasty little voice

A few months ago, I discovered a quote that has become one of my all time favourites. I've used it ad nauseum in my childbirth classes, and it has a special significance right now given that absolute magnitude of the challenge I've placed upon myself. Here's what it says: "It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually, you learn that competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit." This pearl of wisdom is courtesy of the late George Sheehan and probably the most accurate description of the importance of mental strategies to succeed at running (as a matter of fact, it can be applied to anything in life). I had to pull heavily on it this morning.

I woke up feeling very anxious that today was one of my running days. Even last night, I could feel myself getting anxious at the thought of my morning run. Instead of looking forward to it, I was feeling a sense of dread. I heard it would be snowing, I was thinking of the physical discomfort I feel when running and my mind spiralled into negative thoughts. This morning, I was tired and feeling down and the thought of having to go run was stressing me out. I think the pressure of making my commitment public is getting to me. Thankfully, I knew that this is a very normal pattern for me. When things get tough, I have a tendency to panic, stop dead in my tracks, turn around, dive under the covers and....quit. But I knew that today quitting was not an option. I have to stick to my training if I want to make it to the starting line.

So I put my clothes on, trying to shut down my thoughts, put the kids on the bus, and inspired by the prowess of another of our Olympic Athletes, I started my run. I was about 400 meters in the run, when I started huffing and puffing. My legs were very sore and I wondered how on earth I was going to keep running. Enter George Sheehan and his weapon of a quote. I decided to ignore the nasty little voice that wants me to quit. The voice that has had the upper hand many times in my life when challenges prove a little bit more difficult and uncomfortable to my sense of safety. Any time my thoughts entered the negative, self-sabotage zone, I thought of the quote and kept running. It was a difficult run, with snowy and slippery roads. I had to walk three times to catch my breath but eventually completed a 6.82 km run in about 45 mn.

I'd like to say that I feel fantastic and incredible. I don't. I'm scared that the current physical limitations of my body are going to prevent me from running 21.1 km. I'm scared that the nasty little voice will get the best of me and that I will quit even before race day.

The only strategy I have right now is to focus on one run at a time and not judge my performance. It is what it is. I did the best that I could do today.

The good news is that in just one week, I have ran 4 times for a total of a little over 27 km. That's more than I did two weeks ago and it's progress that I can't ignore.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

15 years and still a long road ahead

Today was a day of rest following a 5.8 km interval training at dusk yesterday. My goal was to try to push myself by running faster than my usual easy pace in order to gain endurance and strength. It was tough! It wasn't just the fast pace that made the run challenging, but also the fact that I had to contend with pants that kept rolling down my hips and needed to be readjusted every two minutes. It was very distracting and made focusing a little bit tough. Wardrobe malfunction + feeling rushed to have a good run before darkness hit the street = an interesting run. But I did it. I found myself using a lot of positive self-talk and tried to stay in the moment, thinking of the next stride rather than focusing on the physical challenges of the run. I suspect I will get better at it overtime.

My body was feeling sore last night and this morning, and during my stretching session following the run, I wondered if doing yoga on my rest days might not only improve flexibility and recovery but also increase my overall body strength and endurance. I debated joining a Hot Power yoga class tonight, but something much more important needed to be celebrated. Tonight is the anniversary of our first kiss, the beginning of Tyler and my life together. Tyler made sure the day didn't go unnoticed. This morning, the kids gave me some cards they had made topped with chocolate kisses, and tonight he came home with Starbucks in hand. That would have been enough to make my day, but he went above and beyond. 15 gifts for 15 years together. Chocolate, roses, cards, bookmark, wine, a poem he wrote and a stunning jewellery set with matching earrings and necklace highlighted with diamonds and amethysts. The love I feel for this man is beyond what any word could describe and to say that I am the luckiest woman in the world is the pure simple truth. All presents aside, the most important gift Tyler gives me everyday is his complete support, encouragements and love. His faith in me is unwavering and when I doubt myself he is there, always to give me strength. We have accomplished so much together already and I am very excited that one of our next adventures will be running the half-marathon together. I cannot wait to cross the finish line together, hand in hand.
I wouldn't want to share this with anyone else and I look forward to many more years of strides taken together on our journey through life.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The hardest part is to take the first steps....

When I mentioned to a friend of mine recently that I had just signed up to run the Ottawa Race Week-end half-marathon on May 30th, she looked at me and simply said: "Are you crazy?" The obvious answer was yes. I am crazy. Absolutely nuts. In more ways than one. But not when it comes to my decision to run the race. I must also assure you that when I filled in the registration form and paid my $55 to enter the race, I was sober and not under the influence of any other doubtful substances.

I'm sure I could come up with a couple of good reasons for doing it: That running makes me feel good, keeps me healthy, toned and beautiful. There are also the shallow ones: the free t-shirt, the medal, the supporters on the sideline that cheer enthusiastically as you pass by, sweaty and panting and give you the extra boost of energy you needed to push on and keep going. I also can't wait to buy myself a cute running skirt to wear on race day. Any reason to shop and buy new outfits is a great reason to sign up for a half-marathon...isn't it? Now that would be a crazy reason to sign up.

The truth is, while some of the above reasons are definitely a great benefit to signing up, there is only one reason that matters to me. I signed up because I wanted to prove to myself that I could follow through with a commitment that scares the shit out of me. Simple as that, and yet very complicated.

The half-marathon is my Everest. There is something holy in an event which not only requires physical endurance but also a lot of mental and emotional strength. I need both of these very much right now. And for me, the grueling part is going to be the weeks of training that precede the event. It will require time, discipline, effort and most of all a shift in thinking patterns: excuses are no longer acceptable, fear can no longer take over and prevent me from achievement. I have now committed and must ignore the excuses I've been coming up with for years to put exercise and health last on my to-do list ("it's too cold, too hot, the kids need me, I have to work, I'm too tired, blah, blah, blah"). My thoughts have been my sabotage mechanism but this is no longer acceptable. I needed a huge challenge to change my life and there it is. I cannot go back now.

As I struggle to live with anxiety, I cannot stay the status quo. As my mom battles breast cancer again, I cannot sit on the couch and ignore my health, lest I be willing to have a date with cancer too. 

I know that when I make it to the starting line of the half-marathon, I will be almost there. I know that when I cross the finish line, I will have climbed my Everest and this achievement will propel me to greater things. It all begins with the first few steps. During the training and along the way on race day, there will be many of my friends cheering me on. Friends who believe in me, even when I've bailed before on my commitment. And I'm lucky that I will be running the half-marathon with the person who believes in me the most: my husband Tyler.

Here's to first steps.