Friday, April 24, 2015

Fitness Friday: Pre-Race Rituals

We are T-2 days from the St. Luke's Half Marathon, so I thought today would be a good day to talk about my pre-race rituals.  Runners are a quirky bunch and I'm sure everyone has their own little idiosyncrasies.  I don't think mine are too weird, but I'll let you be the judge of that!
1 Week Before Race
  • Increase water/fluid intake.  This is an area of my health that I regularly slack on, so a week before a goal race I try to make sure I'm drinking more water throughout the day.  Unfortunately, I did not do so well this week.  Some hectic days combined with my absentmindedness left me definitely lacking some days.  I'm usually so much more focused on the kids' needs throughout the day, that I end up slacking on my own.  Plus, drinking more water means more bathroom breaks, which I also often don't have time for!
  • Start scoping out race day weather.  Weather can change this far out, but I like to check throughout the week so I can generally prepare myself for what to expect.  So far, it looks like race day weather will start out around 40 degrees Sunday morning.  I think I'll probably wear a sweatshirt over my tank top and shorts and check a bag at the last possible moment.
  • Get more sleep.  Ah, another area I am continually behind on.  I tried to get more sleep this week but my early work hours combined with my night-owl tendencies seemed to get the best of me yet again!
2-3 Days Before Race
  • Reduce intake of high fiber foods.  The last thing anyone wants on race day are loose stools!Enough said. 
  • Clip toenails.  Is that one gross?!  It's not like I have long, gnarly toenails but I've forgotten to cut them at times and there is nothing more uncomfortable than cut, bleeding feet while running. 
Day Before Race
  • Sleep in.  I never get much sleep the night of the race so I always try to get more 2 nights prior.
  • Pick out race day outfit.  Check weather one last time and plan clothing accordingly.  I don't really adhere to the 'nothing new on race day' rule.  What can I say, I live on the edge!  I've worn new shirts or socks that I bought specifically for a race without ever having worn them before.  The only thing I probably wouldn't wear brand new would be a pair of shoes.  The past few races I've been wearing the same sports bra, which now feels lucky.  Is that weird?!
  • Charge Garmin.  This race has pacers and I think I'm going to run with one of the groups, but I still want to keep track of my splits myself.
  • EAT PASTA!  I eat the same thing every night before a race: Spaghetti and meatballs and a bottle of Gatorade.  Old school + Italian, there you go.
Sometimes, I let my cats pick out my race day outfit 
Race Day
  • Eat 2 hours prior to race start.  In addition to eating the same thing every night before a race I also always eat the same breakfast: A bagel (plain) and a bottle of Gatorade.  I also drink at least a bottle of water.
  • Go to the bathroom.  ESSENTIAL.  I'm talking #2 here.  And that's all I'll say about that.
  • Take an Imodium (optional).  I usually only do this before a half marathon, not shorter distance races.  I don't think I've mentioned it here before but I have a long history of IBS.  Maybe some day I'll do some posts on it.  But, running long distances often exacerbates digestive issues, even in healthy people.  I just do not have time for bathroom stops during the race so this ensures that.  And I've never been constipated a day in my life, ever (TMI?!) so there's no lingering after effects for me.
  • Double/triple check that my shoes are tied!
Post Race
  • EAT!  Anything and everything I want.  VEGAN TREATS!!!
  • Thank my family and friends.  For standing outside, often in less than ideal conditions, cheering me on and waiting for me at the finish line!
  • NAP
  • Sign up for the next race :)
And that's me.  Quirks and all.  Hope I didn't scare any of you off.  I'll be back with a recap next week!  Have a great weekend!
Your turn!  What are some of your pre-race rituals?!  The weirder the better :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Chance Encounters and 'What Do You Do?'

"What do you do?" 

It's a loaded question, and one we hear all the time in this country, especially upon first meeting someone.  And it's not one I'm particularly fond of. 

As you can see, I'm penning this post, so that must mean I survived the weekend (barely!).  30 hours of childcare in 2 days is no joke!  But, I had a really interesting interaction in the midst of my toils on Saturday that I'd like to share with you. 

I had a brief reprieve for a late lunch break around 4pm and was able to sit outside for the first time all day.  I sat directly in the sun, eating my sandwich, reveling in the feel of the heat and warmth on my face.  I had been inside all day looking out at the 80 degree weather, like a caged animal.  And even more than that, this winter has been long.  The sun on Saturday felt like it was sent to shine on me straight from Heaven above!

As I sat sunning myself, a gentleman sitting in the shade on the courtyard asked if the sun was too much for me.  I told him what I just told you.  That after the long winter we've had, I couldn't get enough of those rays!  We started chatting and he told me he recently moved to the States from South Africa (his accent was much more distinguished than mine).  He asked me how long I've lived in Baltimore and if I liked it.  He said he originally came through DC but Baltimore felt more cozy and close knit to him.

We continued chatting and he told me he was an author and needed to live near his publisher who was located in NYC, but could never picture himself actually living in NYC.  I told him I used to travel to NYC often for my previous job and felt the same way.  He then asked me what I used to do and I told him I had a past life in finance.  He said he also used to work for an investment bank before he nearly lost his soul.  He quit, went on a meditation retreat, and then became an author of 'children's fables'.  Serendipity!  I told him I felt the same way working in finance, and that I have been nannying since I left, and am also an aspiring writer.  What a strange coincidence that two people from opposite sides of the planet meet, and their lives have taken similar courses.

He eventually came to join me at my table, and told me he felt my energy when he entered the courtyard and thought I must be "a teacher or a healer"!  Right on dude.  I'd say I'm a bit of both right now.  I guess this may sound kind of 'woo-woo' to some of you, but I didn't get any bad vibes from him.  He wasn't creepy or scary or menacing.  I just think he was an enlightened and spiritual person. 

We continued talking about more of his initial experiences in the States and one of the things he said stuck with me.  He said upon moving to DC he was meeting lots of new people, and one of the first questions he was always asked was "What do you do?".  He said initially he did not know what people meant.  He thought they were asking "How do you do?", i.e. inquiring about his general health and well being.  But upon further questioning he realized they were essentially inquiring 'How do you make your money?', and he thought this to be quite rude!  He said in his country this is not a typical question you ask upon being introduced to someone new.   

I think opening with the line of "What do you do?" is a bit of a slippery slope and I'll tell you why.  I think the intention behind the question can be quite harmless and innocuous, but also just as often not. 

Many times, I think the person asking the question is just trying to get more information about who the other person is, and sometimes a person's occupation reveals that, but sometimes it does not.  Just as many people are working jobs they do not like in order to make ends meet or feed their families or pay their way through school, as people who are working jobs they believe in.  Why put someone on the spot and make them feel judged immediately?  Why not let them volunteer this information in the normal course of conversation.  If they want to tell you 'what they do', they surely will.

On the other hand, I do believe that this question sometimes belies other less appealing motives from the asker.

Sometimes, I think the asker is trying to network, essentially asking 'What can you do for me?'.  That is, 'How can I benefit from being connected to you?'.  'Will knowing you do anything for my career or social status?'.  And secondly, I believe the person asking the question may be trying to pinpoint their position on the socioeconomic ladder compared to you.  It is pretty much a more socially acceptable way of asking how much money you make.  It is these motives that I find unappealing and make me apprehensive about answering the question.

In any case, I do think it's telling that Americans as a whole are more interested in finding out WHAT someone does, than caring about HOW they are doing.

When I meet someone new I don't ask them what they do. I am more interested conversing with them to find out what kind of person they are.  I'd like to think I'm generally good at reading people (although I give most people the benefit of the doubt!) and if I don't feel like they are a good, kind, genuine person, then what they do, or any other details about them are really of no concern to me.  This may be generalized, but working in finance gave me plenty of face time with people whose values and intentions just did not align with mine, and I've worked to distance myself from that kind of energy. 

Back when I was Tindering, guys would pose the 'What do you do?' question to me almost immediately.  I got so sick of it, that I just started listing all the things I enjoyed doing.  "I like running, I blog, I love being outside, I like summer and bare feet, and I enjoy hanging out with my family and friends".  'What kind of things do you do?'  HAHA  Sly ol Bean.  Most of them got annoyed and then further questioned me, without asking any more about that giant list of activities and interests that I just provided them with, 'I mean, what do you do for work?'.  And that my friends, is just one of the MANY reasons I'm no longer a Tinder-er. 

All of this is just food for thought on this Wednesday.  You can take or leave it.  Or proclaim it all hooey!  But I think my chance encounter this weekend was anything but a coincidence.

Have you ever had any chance encounters that stuck with you?

How do you feel about the 'What do you do?' question?

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Few Things Friday...

Happy Friday everyone!  Today's post is going to be a bit short and random.  I have a busy couple days ahead of me and not enough time to organize all of these thoughts into a more coherent package, so I'm going with a list. 

1.  I am working 14.5 hours today and 15 on Saturday.  If I make it to Sunday, it will be a miracle.  If not, well, it was nice knowing all of you!

2.  I've already planned out the 3 things I will be doing Sunday:  Sleeping.  Running.  Going back to sleep.  If possible, I'll try to fit some eating and showering in there.  No promises on the last one.

3.  The hours can be rough sometimes, but my "office" kinda rocks, especially in weather like this:

4.  I am addicted to this kombucha soda now.  I grab a couple bottles every time I'm in Target, which let's be honest, is often.  The root beer flavor is my favorite.

5.  One of my charges got a new book today and I could not believe my eyes! I loved this book when I was little (even though it scared me):

6.  I get teary-eyed every single time I read this book:

7.  I have been loving this massage stick that I got at Target for like $10.  It hurts so good.  I've been using it on my lower legs and the results are similar to the ART (active release technique)/Graston that I got during physical therapy a few years ago.  My shins have been a little testy the last few weeks so I've been massaging with this thing, icing, and wearing compression sleeves on long runs. 

8. One week until the St. Luke's Half. I can't wait! This is me running it 3 years ago!

I'm off to do some baby whispering.  I hope you all have a more relaxing weekend planned than I do!

Favorite children's books?
- I have too many to list!

Do you use foam rollers/massage sticks/etc as part of your running recovery routine?

What are you up to this weekend?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Step by Step

You totally broke out in NKOTB lyrics after reading that title didn't you?!  Step by step.  Oooooooh baby.  Gonna get to you girrrrrrrrrrrrl.

What glorious gorgeous weekend weather we had here in Baltimore!  I hope Spring is making its way to your neck of the woods as well.  The sun, the blooming trees and the first smells of cut grass were all welcome sights and scents this weekend.

I got in my last double-digit run yesterday.  I was actually supposed to get to it Saturday but I was feeling kind of run down, so I moved it to Sunday.  Even so, it was still a bit of a struggle. 

It was a beautiful sunny day, but it was the warmest weather I had run in so far this year, and I got pretty dehydrated.  I am not the best at keeping up with my water consumption, especially in the winter.  I have to remind myself to drink more now that the weather is getting warmer.  I felt thirsty and a bit nauseous throughout this run and ended up with salt all over my body by the time I was done.  I was going to take a picture but I figured that would gross you out! Ha  I gulped down a bunch of Gatorade when I got home and started to feel a little better.  And then I ran to Target in my salty, sweaty state.  So attractive.  Just some more fuel for the #whyI'mstillsingle argument.

The course I run around my place in Baltimore is fairly hilly, and I wanted to share with you how I approach hills.

When I'm running, the hills always seem easier to tackle if I focus on the steps right in front of me, instead of looking up ahead to the top of the hill.  It's often too intimidating to look ahead and see how far and high I have to go.  I almost feel defeated before I even begin.  But if I just focus on putting one foot in front of the other, before you know it I've reached the summit! 
I think this mindset can be really helpful and applicable to many of life's challenges.  Whether pursuing an educational goal, climbing the corporate ladder, trying to lose weight, or raising a family, the big goal can often feel out of reach.  But if you just focus on taking small steps, little by little, you'll get there.  As much as we want to sometimes, there is no fast forward in life.  We can't skip steps, take one giant leap, and be where we want to be.  We have to trust that the hard work and the little steps we're putting in will get us there.  And they always do. 
Keep on truckin' everyone!  I believe in you :)
Do you look ahead when you're climbing hills or focus on what's right in front of you?
How was your weekend running?



Friday, April 10, 2015

Fitness Friday: 2 Weeks til Race Day, Weekly Workouts and Body Combat Review

It's Friiiiiiiiiiday!  This week flew by, and I suddenly find myself 2 weeks away from the St Luke's Half Marathon.  That's what happens when you sign up for a half marathon 6 weeks out!  HA 

Two weeks left means I only have one more double-digit training run this weekend.  The following week will be a taper week and my last 'long' run will probably be about 1/2 the distance of the race, so around 7 miles. 

Do you embrace the taper before a race?  I just read this article re: tapering mistakes on Runner's World, and it has some good pre-race reminders.  I personally always taper one week before a half-marathon, and I can definitely feel the difference/freshness in my legs and entire body on race day.  Sometimes, I even take a few days off running before shorter races like 5k's too.  After a hard training cycle, you will not lose any fitness in a few days' time, but this break gives your body a chance to reload its glycogen stores and your muscles a chance to rest and rebuild themselves as well.  I really believe it gets you to the finish line faster.

Since I'm currently not in taper, this is what my workouts looked like the past week:

Saturday - 11+ miles outside
Sunday - Rest day (Easter!)
Monday - Strength training (Upper & Lower body - combo of free weights and machines) + core work (variety of crunches/twists)
Tuesday - 3.3 miles outside
Wednesday - 1 hour Body Combat
Thursday - 3.2 miles outside
Friday - Rest day
Saturday - 10 miles (planned)

My friend has been inviting me to take Body Combat with her for weeks and I finally went this week.  It's been awhile since I've taken classes at the gym. I used to take Body Pump religiously.  That was my favorite.  But when my work schedule changed a couple years ago, I couldn't get there for awhile and then just fell off the wagon.  I've been lifting weights on my own but I do miss Pump.  The only other Les Mills class I've taken is Body Attack and I am not really a fan.  It's HIIT which I like but there's too much choreography to learn!  Most of the time I was getting lost with the moves so I didn't feel like I was getting the best workout. 

But I thoroughly enjoyed Body Combat this week!  It was a great way to mix up my cross-training workouts and left me sore (in a good way).  I definitely used muscle groups in that class that I haven't used in awhile/forgot existed!  A bit of history here.  Years ago I used to take a kickboxing class at my old gym that I LOVED.  The instructor was phenomenal and many of us developed a personal relationship with her.  A coworker and I used to attend her classes 2-3 times a week.  After a year or two, she had such a following that she was able to coerce the gym to get us standing bags like this:

which were AWESOME!  Obviously, I'm not a physically violent person but having something to punch and kick after work was pretty cathartic! Hahaha

Ok, getting back to Body Combat.  If you've never taken it, Les Mills describes it as "the high energy, martial arts-inspired, non-contact workout".  If you did Tae-Bo back in the day, it's like that!  This is a non-contact class, meaning there are no punching bags, so you are punching/kicking 'air', however it is definitely a high intensity class that moves quickly.  If I did not have a history with kickboxing, I probably would not have been able to pick up the moves so fast on my first class.  Luckily, I remembered most of the punch and kick moves and was able to get into the combos pretty quickly.  There are low and high intensity variations for most combos so you can adjust the workout to suit your current fitness level or needs.   My shoulders, biceps, triceps and back are sore today so I guess I've not been working them as much as I should be!  Upper body strength is an area often neglected by runners (myself included) but the more of it you have, the more power you will have for your runs.  True story.

A few tips I would offer for those new to Body Combat.  First, if you've never taken a kick boxing type class, go slow the first class.  It is high intensity and you don't want to overdo it or pull something your first time out.  Secondly, and this one is for myself as well, wear proper shoes.  I wore an old pair of running shoes (I never wear my current pair of running shoes for anything other than running), which was not the smartest choice.  The cushioning in them was long gone, and since I'm a neutral/supinating runner, there is very little support.  Because of all the pivoting and jumping, I could definitely feel some discomfort in my feet and I was wishing I had a more supportive cross training shoe. 

I'm looking forward to working more classes back into rotation after my race and Body Combat will  be one of them.

Hope you had a great week of workouts and enjoy the weekend!  Catch you on the flip side :)

Do you like taking group exercise classes or do you prefer solo workouts?

Ever take any Les Mills classes (Body Pump, Body Combat, Body Attack, etc)?

Any spring races coming up?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Fight Through the Headwind, Savor the Tailwind

Happy Monday morning to you all.  I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend if you were celebrating.  I was in PA enjoying Easter with my family.  Unfortunately, my sisters and I don't wear matching Easter dresses any more so I don't have an updated version of Friday's picture to share with you! HAHA  My hope is that one day I have children I can dress in matching clothes, along with matching outfits for myself and my future husband.  If you know any single men who are interested in a future like this, please send them my way.

Ok onto some reflections from the weekend.  Easter fell a bit early this year so the weather was still pretty brisk.  In fact, most of the weekend in PA was extremely windy.  I awoke Saturday morning to the sound of the wind whipping around outside and against the house.  It sounded like a hurricane out there.  I immediately feared how I was going to make it through that day's long run.  I checked the weather and it confirmed that the wind was going to stick around all day, with gusts up to 40 mph.  Say what?!!  There was no chance I could move my run to Sunday, because, uh, Easter.  Church, family, dinner, driving back to Bmore.  I was going to have to face that wind head on. 

It was probably meant to be since I emerged from the run with yet another important life lesson.  As much as we'd love to do so, we humans cannot control the weather.  In fact, in the game of life, there are many factors that are beyond our control.  Sometimes, the only thing we can do batten down the hatches, and ride out the storm.  When you make it through to the other side, you always come out stronger.

My mom was just arriving home from her morning workout when I headed out for my run.  "You're going out running in this?!", she said.  "I could feel the wind blowing my car around on the drive home."  Oh dear.  I'm fairly certain I weigh less than a car, and that did not bode well.

I set out and apparently caught the tailwind on the first few miles because my splits were under 9:00 min/mi at the start.  "I'm flying Jack!", I thought!  However, you can't ride a tailwind forever.  Well, I suppose you could if you always head in the same direction, but running and life just aren't like that are they?  They're a series of twists and turns, a few steps this way, a few steps that way.

Eventually, I had to head back in the direction of home.  And then I felt it.  The headwind.  Oh sweet Moses.  After initially being smacked in the face with it, I found my footing and started pushing.  Sometimes I felt like my legs were pushing so hard, but I was barely moving.  Like I was running through quicksand.  I would make a few turns here and there on the way back and sometimes be out of the wind's path, but eventually, I'd head north again, and there it was.  "When is this going to endddddddd?", I kept thinking.  But that's the thing.  I knew eventually it would end.  I'd change directions and I'd be out of it. 

I had 11 miles on tap for the day, which meant two 5.5 mile loops.  So I knew I'd eventually get back to the house, and have the advantage of starting the loop all over again, riding the tailwind for the first few miles.  And so I kept pushing.  And when I finally got back and started heading south again, I felt incredibly strong!  It's amazing how light and swift on my feet I felt after fighting the wind for so long.  I somehow felt stronger midway through my run than I did at the beginning.  I rode that high for awhile and then had to face the headwind again for miles 8-11.  Nothing like putting your hardest battles at the end.  But I kept telling myself eventually it would end, and this one little run would be over and done with.  And so it was. 

The end result of my battling the elements that day?  I ended with avg splits that were 25 seconds faster than my time 2 weeks ago on the same course! (Oh and then I treated myself to Vegan Treats, of course.)  Much stronger indeed.

We often wish life (and our runs) could be smooth sailing.  Just a crystal clear sea without a wave in sight.  But I think we know that's just not realistic.  When in the midst of an up cycle, we wish things could forever stay that happy and calm.  But without the headwind, there would BE no tailwind.  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Just as there would be no day without night, no Spring without Winter, we've got to take the good with bad. 

I'm going to keep this run in mind the next time I'm in the midst of a particularly rocky string of events.  Things will always turn around and the winds will die down.  In the meantime, choose your battles.  Fight hard.  Or adjust your sails, and change course.  There will be blue skies up ahead.

While you ruminate over that, I'll share just a few Easter pics with you.  We were all asked to bring a dish to my grandparent's house this year. Most often I purchase something ready-made.  (ie. my standard contribution to Thanksgiving dinner is cranberry sauce.)  Well, I made a real dish for Easter dinner yesterday.  Behold this beautiful pasta salad:

What can I say, I'm a domestic goddess.

And, here's the "adult" table from dinner.  We were missing both of my sisters and two of my cousins this year so it was a bit smaller.  I guess that just meant more food for the rest of us!

I hope this week finds all of you with the wind at your back!
How do you deal with headwinds in your life?
Are you currently riding a tailwind, or fighting some stormy weather?
Did you celebrate the holiday weekend?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Happy Easter from The Muppets

AKA my sisters and me:

THAT HAIR though.
Have a great holiday weekend!