Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Some Days the Bear Manages You

As the old saying goes: some days you manage the bear and some days the bear manages you.

That's what ran through my head on the treadmill the other day when I ran a solid mile and a quarter at a 12 minute pace. Then I realized I had left my inhaler at home just as my chest began to tighten up a bit. I took it down to a walk and squeezed in another mile and a quarter before doing some circuit training on the weight machines in the woman's gym and then finished up with a yoga class.

Which was more than I thought I could do as I could barely walk Sunday - my butt was soooooooooo sore. Needless to say I didn't run either.

The past couple of days have been rough in that sort of "blah" way. You know, it's cold and gray and the last thing you want to do is go outside, let alone run. Add to it an endless slate of meetings, local politics and everything else - let's just say I chalked it up as needing a break for some reason.

I was planning on breaking out of the funk by going to yoga until the toilet seat fought back.

No, no... it's not what you're thinking. See, when you have 3 teen boys in the house, they tend to slam things. I think it's in part that they're unaware teens and in part that they don't know where their limbs end. The end result is I noticed the other day the toilet seat was cracked and picked up a new one. Unfortunately, the aches and stiffness from Friday's session took it's toll and I didn't get around to replacing the seat.

Then someone dropped it today and it cracked all the way through. No more putting it off. I took a screw driver and vice grips into the bathroom and set to work.

Unfortunately the screws on there had rusted (freakin' budget warehouse special!) and one screw head disintegrated and the other just was frozen to the point of being easily stripped the first time I applied any force. This meant calling in the MIT trained engineer (aka my DH, Mr. Bear). Immediately he evaluates the situation and brings in a couple of more screw drivers, pliers, WD 40, small file saw and a hammer.

("Hammer?!!" I'm thinking quickly calculating the cost of a new toilet for when he smashes the porcelain. Fortunately he didn't use it.)

All I needed was him to hold the screw in place so I could force the wingnut off. It was sort of like using an elephant gun where a BB gun would have sufficed, but the seat came off without damaging anything. I popped the new seat on and all is good again.

So I'll go out, do my midweek grocery shopping (the boys have polished off a pound of turkey breast, a pound of corned beef, a gallon of milk, 2 liters of soda water, pears, kiwi fruits, cookies and almost a full bunch of bannanas in less than 72 hours - teenagers) and feel a kinship across time to what my mother must have had to do back in the day with three teen boys in the house as well.

Fortunately none of my dump a half gallon of vanilla ice cream in a mixing bowl, break up a bag of oreos over it and then dump a bottle of chocolate syrup on top. But there are still days when I wonder if I should get a small freezer chest and start buying things like bagel bites and bagel dogs in bulk.

Tomorrow I will run - even if it's on a treadmill. I will also run Friday morning and feel back on track. That's good thing about these days when the bear manages me... it's a reminder that I can't always be the one in control.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hurts So Good

It started as "one of those days..." The kids being kids, the husband being the husband and breaking two nails in the process. The strap on my gym bag ripped out of the seam (it was a freebie from the Red Sox - no great loss but still sad on many levels), so I ran into Target to get a new bag.

Ironically, that's were things began to turn around. I found another Mr. Pi birthday present on clearance (a desk lamp that you can plug your iPod into) as well as a new bag and picked up a yoga bag as well. By the time I got to the gym, I was pretty sure I was going to bag the last 3.5 mile run scheduled for the week - I just didn't have the time and I was till recovering from "the day" I was having earlier.

Yoga went long today. The instructor is used to doing a 90 minute class in a yoga studio rather than 60 in a health club. She again did a lot of work on opening the hips and twisting poses, which was good but I felt every single posture and not always in a happy way. Not in a bad way, but that sort of "son of a bitch I felt that one" sort of way.

Then I met with the trainer who put me through some serious paces today. A lot of calf work and a lot of opening up the hip flexors. By the end of the time, I was dying... again in that good way where my body is well aware it was working hard and not in a painful way.

At this point I knew I just couldn't squeeze the run in - it really would take too much time that I just didn't have at that point.

I also realized that all I had eaten today was some cheddar cheese on an english muffin. Not good at all. I need to make sure I'm fueled properly and for some reason, it slipped my mind today. So I treated myself to some fresh sushi and miso at the Japanese food court after my work outs. I was tempted to go for a beef bowl, but I didn't want to load down. The sushi & miso were just right.

I may try to squeeze the run in tomorrow - we'll see what the weather brings and how I'm feeling. I do have a 5 mile run scheduled for Sunday, so I may just punt it. I mean, I did 10.5 miles this week and it's the first week I've done more than a couple of miles total. There is something inside saying, "Take it easy girl" and perhaps that's why I've punted on the last run of the week.

In the mean time, I'm comfortable with what I did today. Tomorrow I may be cursing everyone and thing for putting me through my paces today, but for now I feel sore in a good way.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Word of the Day

[BEGINNING OF WARNING] Today's post may sound a bit negative... but it really isn't. It was just the stuff running through my head on the treadmill today. [END OF WARNING]

Today's word is: undulate...

definition courtesy of

–verb (used without object)
1. to move with a sinuous or wavelike motion; display a smooth rising-and-falling or side-to-side alternation of movement: The flag undulates in the breeze.
2. to have a wavy form or surface; bend with successive curves in alternate directions.
3. (of a sound) to rise and fall in pitch: the wail of a siren undulating in the distance.
–verb (used with object)
4. to cause to move in waves.
5. to give a wavy form to.

Or, as I was thinking, "the mirror reflected my fat undulating on my hips, thighs and stomach as I ran 2 miles on the treadmill."

Again I ask: what sick bastard thought floor to ceiling mirrors were a good idea in a women's gym? What little self esteem I have at this point is seriously compromised watching the hypnotic ripple of my jiggling thighs as I shuffle along running a red queen's race - just the treadmill and me - from a multitude of angles: forward, both sides, diagonal angles and, thanks to the the mirrors on the back wall, behind.

Even with my glasses safely tucked away in my locker my nearsighted eyes can't escape the vision of my fat as it undulates. I am fascinated by its rippling motion as my inner loser takes delight in the scene.

"Here you thought you were so healthy. What was that mantra again? Faster, leaner, stronger? You can't take your eyes off the fat as it ripples at a 13 minute mile - is that the faster, leaner woman you see yourself as?"

The answer is yes, yes this is the stronger, leaner, faster woman I see in myself. You see, in spite of the morbid fascination with the mirrored reflection today, I am leaner than I was a year ago... or six months ago for that matter. I'm by no means where I'd like to be, but I am growing leaner.

I know I'm much faster than I was last spring when I might have been able to shuffle along at a 15 min/mile pace for a couple of minutes before slowing to a 3 mph walk. Now I regularly walk at my original running pace and I can run a respectable 12:30 range mile for 3 miles. It's not the 10 minute mile I'm working toward, but that will come as I continue training.

I'm most definately stronger as well. I can almost press my weight in a seated squat machine (which totally kicks ass in more ways than one), but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about today - in spite of the hypnotic site that beheld me, I kept going and didn't stop until I got my scheduled two miles in. It's that I even hopped on the treadmill in spite of leaving the Nike+ antenna on the desk this morning and knowing my run "didn't count" in terms of registering in challenges and goal totals. It's that after I ran the distance on the treadmill, I then went to the yoga class with the crazy twisty teacher... even though she had us working with straps today to "open the hips and sacrum."

I'm stronger because I could admit I needed to use the yoga brick in order to tuck one foot on my opposite hip and then balance enough to sweep down to the floor and then back up again. (OK, I swept down to the brick and back up again... but close enough.)

Once again the inner loser was held at bay - left to sulk in its corner with a lonely self-pity party. Me, I'd rather live my favorite Richard Scarry quote: "It was time to stop playing games. It was time to put on funny hats and eat ice cream."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Keep on Truckin' Baby

So far, so good this week. Yesterday I did a 1/2 hour of circuit weight work and my yoga class. I like Monday yoga, she's all about doing balance poses and, even though I don't feel like I'm working that hard, I always end up drenched in sweat by the time we're through.

Today winter finally arrived and it got cold. Because Gazelle Boy had his first driver's ed class from 6-8 tonight, I decided to do my 3.5 miles on the treadmill at the local branch of the health club. There's something really intimidating about a club filled with 20 something hard bodies shakin' their groove thang to find a date to go clubbing later. Every piece of equipment was full and I was on the last treadmill near the end.

About 20 minutes into my run, the vultures were circling for a free piece of equipment, trying to stare me down as I did my 10 minutes running/5 minutes walking paces. I kept doing my thing and by the time I was done, most of the posing and flexing had either moved to the weight equipment or moved out the door.

It really makes me appreciate the dozen or so folks that show up for the lunch time classes that I go to because... well, I like having room to move thankyouverymuch.

I suspect that I'll have to run there a few more times while it's cold - it happens. Who knows, maybe I'll get a good piece out of it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Should Women Run?!

Athena had a link in her blog to an article by Michael Boyle called "Why (Most) Women Shouldn't Run" which, up front, said it was going to piss people off. Boyle's assertion is that elite women athletes look like men - narrow hips, smaller bust lines, etc. Regular women have the bad Q angles (the angle between the quad and the patella tendon... no Michael, I don't find such information "boring")

It is true that the higher the angle, the more likely you are to suffer knee problems from repetitious activity and overpronation, but these are common complaints of all runners - not just women runners.

He wrote a follow up piece at his website, "Should Women Run, Pt. 2" defending himself.

OK Michael, here's the deal: most people, male and female, think if they start running they will lose weight. It doesn't matter what their gender, their age, their body type or any other factor may be - running is viewed as a weightloss vehicle. The don't know from Q angles ... heck, most of them don't even know about different types of shoes and pay way too much money in the mall for whatever the pimply faced kid without a clue is selling that week.

If you view running as a lifestyle activity - and most people who make it through the first bit of training do, then you learn how to work and adapt your body in a way that it will continue to produce results with minimal injury.

It can be as simple as getting the proper pair of shoes. It can be as easy as a good cross training activity that helps strengthen or adjust the body to adapt. The argument that women have the wrong Q angles for running is the same as saying women with big chests aren't suited for yoga because the original yogis were males with little body fat and far more flexible than the average person. And yet I'd like to see you up against the instructor in the class I go to on Mondays. She doesn't look like a yogi but that woman can bend in positions I didn't think the body could do without damage.

My son is a runner - no two ways around it. Before he knew he was a runner, I knew he was one. I knew because I watched little league coaches instruct pitchers to walk the kid ahead of him (no matter how bad they were) so there would be someone to keep him from stealing second and third on the next two pitches. He couldn't hit, but he knew how to wait his pitch and he could run it out. Further, he taught himself to slide from watching games on TV and could slide into base on a cloud of dust and come up standing. As much as I wish he was a ball player, I knew he was really a runner and encouraged him to consider it.

I wasn't surprised when his high school coach declared, "He has the stride and attitude of an elite runner," when he was a freshman. I always knew that, it was just a question of Gazelle Boy knowing that.

But you know what, I'm a runner too. In spite of nature giving me round hips and a generous chest (which many people would pay big bucks to have leaving me confused and asking, "why?"), I am a runner.

A year ago I wouldn't have believed that but now I do. I believe it because I am one - I just didn't know it until last July. I knew it when I turned that corner in Quincy and saw the skyline of Boston at mile 2 of the Ryka Iron Girl 5K - my first real race - when I heard the Standells sing, "Oh, Boston you're my home." Suddenly, I realized I was home.

I was running and I could see the city that has always been my home and in that instant I knew that I had always been a runner and just never realized it until that exact moment.

While you may say, "Just wait until the injuries come...." I say name one athletic activity where injuries don't come. Swimming? Walking? Table tennis? C'mon, name one thing where you don't get injured for whatever reason. I'll tell you this much, the risk of injury is probably far less with me running than with me sitting in the recliner doing nothing.

So stop trying to force the "all runners strive to be elite runners" vision on those of us who are out there for other reasons.

We aren't idiots (for the record, your statement about not "boring" me with details about Q angles was far more offensive than your elitist conclusions about women and running) and we aren't running for conventional gold. We're running because we do listen to our bodies and our bodies will sometimes roar and sometimes whisper, "c'mon girl, time to lace up the shoes and let's go for a run...."

In those golden moments when it's me, the trail and my thoughts coming together I might as well be the first across the finish of Boston because it feels just as good.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Back on Track

My race is in 41 days and I set up a training schedule for myself based on that reality. So, in looking over Hal's plan, today is a 5 mile run and the last time I ran 5 miles was in early December... so I was a little nervous, but anxious to get running again as well.

Then I awoke to rain and cold. I knew I had to run and was mentally steeling myself to do so when Mr. Bear suggested he drop me at the health club while he went to church and he'd pick me up aftwards. That worked for me - even if it meant running 5 miles on a treadmill (ugh!).

The point of today was to remind myself I could run and that five miles was a doable distance. I wasn't out to break records or anything like that, I was out to do 5 miles, and I did. I never let myself go below 3.5 miles/hr for walking time and I pushed myself to try some "fartleks" at a 10 min/mile pace.

Lessons I learned today:

- There are few things in life more humbling than watching yourself run on a treadmill in front of a full length mirror. I'm not sure which sadistic bastard thought of that, but it was pretty freakin' twisted.

- When you spray the equipment with disinfectant and wipe it down after using it in a health club - do folks a favor and point it AWAY from them. Because the woman on the ellipitical next to the treadmill sprayed across the elliptical towards me, I got nailed with the spray... as did my water bottle. (Guess that's going in the dishwasher tonight... grrrr!)

- My lungs can handle 5 miles now. No coughing, hacking up crud or anything like that. They're clear again. Hooray!

- My legs are still a little weak and I walked more than I would have liked; however, they lasted the full 5 miles and that's a good thing.

On tap for this week:

Monday: Yoga & strength work
Tuesday: 3.5 mile run
Wednesday: 2 mile run, yoga & light weight work
Thursday: 3.5 mile run
Fri: Yoga & trainer
Sat: rest

Friday, January 12, 2007


Today I met with the personal trainer to begin working out a routine/schedule.

Now most folks would think I'm in my mid-30's rather than my later 40's, but there's no mistaking me for anything other than someone in their middle years. I'm also (to use the polite term) zaftig. So by looking at me, there are assumptions made and I know it.

The trainer and I met over the phone, so his initial questions were based on "getting to know" me. What were my goals, did I have a plan and those sorts of things. I'm sure when he saw me, there was something in the back of his mind going, "Right - this woman thinks she's gonna run a half..."

We went through the paperwork, contracts, questionaires and so on before heading out onto the floor to do a general fitness test. Using one of those half ball thingies, I did some lunges and squats. I did some weight work with hand weights and a stability ball and a few other things to put me through my paces. Then he did some assisted stretches with me to cool down - all the while saying things like, "Wow, you're in better shape than a lot of the people who come in here."

During the stretches, he was amazed at how flexible I am.

Again, I know I'm not as flexible as some, but better than a lot.

It was one of those things where I wanted to shout, "Surprise!" to see what his reaction would be. I didn't, but I wanted to so badly.....

We worked out a day where we could meet and I'll do some work on my own. Afterwards I was too late to duck into yoga, so I hit the treadmill in the women's room for a little bit. Now I hate treadmills, but I wanted to start getting over my fear of running after so long a break and figured a couple of miles on a treadmill was a good starting point.

I'm glad I did it. Even if I was slow as molasses rolling uphill in winter, just knowing I logged a couple of miles on the "random" setting was enough to make me feel better about going out for my Sunday run this week. I'm picking up the plan at the end of week 4 (a five miler for Sunday) and I've given myself permission to walk if I need to - so it's a non-stressed activity. But between the yoga, walking and moments I get to hop on the glider, I figure I should be OK for the most part (even if I'll be running as many miles in one day as I have all month so far).

So off to research some weight and strength training work to do now that I have access to all the cool equipment and the (sorta) watchful eyes of floor staff.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

C'mon Baby, Let's do the Twist

The last couple of weeks have been about yoga because I've been a little nervous about running until I feel fully recovered. Last night was the first time that I actually felt like normal, but I promised Mr. Bear that I'm not going to rush it. Because it's colder today than it has been (could it be winter is trying to finally assert itself?), I'm probably heading into the health club to use the treadmill for a little bit.

I just really dislike treadmills. It's a Red Queen's Race - running as fast as you can to stay in one place - which feels like an exercise in frustration. Yet, I can't remain motionless for much longer without losing my mind.

Tomorrow I have some time scheduled with the trainer to develop a strength program to compliment the running. I got a good feeling from him when we booked the appointment and he asked, "Are you on a specific running plan? What are you short and long term goals with your running?" and other questions indicating that he was listening to me instead of doing the generic "this is how I start people off..." thing that I've received in the past. When I told him I was doing Higdon's novice half marathon training, he asked for the website so he could see what was involved and we'll work from there.

Sounded good to me, we'll see how it goes tomorrow. We're meeting before yoga class and reviewing things then.

Yesterday's yoga class was with Blanca who decided to focus on "twists." She's trying to work us to a pose that involves a complicated twist that balances on one part of the hip that looks deceptively simple. I've been trying to find a picture of it, but I haven't found any luck yet. But it gives a whole new meaning to "McTwist" (Tony Hawk has no freakin' clue) and I'm not even close to being there.

By the way there is a pose called "The Wind Releasing Pose" (Pavana Mukta Asana)... but that wasn't the pose that was the one I've dubbed "breaking wind pose."

Gotta love the internet. :)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Stupid HOF ballot

Once again Jim Rice was denied entry into the Hall of Fame. If Mark McGwire had been voted in over Rice, I'd be on my way to Cooperstown to kick in the doors to demand entrance for Rice.

Don't get me wrong, Rice was a prima dona and his revisionist history of himself as a player has always rubbed me the wrong way, but the man was the gold standard (if not platinum in his prime) up until the last mediocre year.

I am firmly of the belief that if you send in a blank ballot, you shouldn't be sent a ballot in the future. I am also firmly of the belief that the majority of sports writers are idiots. We need more guys like Frank DeFord who tell the story of the game and not just recap the box score. The majority of today's media coverage lacks soul. We have quantity, not quality.

But until we have more real writers in the media instead of sterile morons with the proper degree, we will continue to see incidents like last year and this year when it comes to such things as hall of fame voting.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


There is an old Harry Nilsson song called "Remember." It is a beautiful ballad that was originally called "Remember (Christmas)" and had sleigh bells in the background. I mostly know it from a really, really bad movie he made with Ringo Starr called "Son of Dracula" where he sings it as a love ballad.

The song has been playing in my head over the past few days. I'm not sure why but today the yoga teacher was talking about how it was "OK to weep" in one of the positions. She began talking about how sometimes yoga brings up emotions and feelings that we try to stuff down or dismiss. Once we deal with them, then all that is left is to embrace joy.

It's been a rough month. Not being able to run, stresses from the holidays and other stressors that crop up as part of living are stronger since I didn't have an outlet to channel them. Tonight when I found myself literally stuffing them down with spoonfuls of cookie dough, I understood what the yoga teacher was talking about in class today.

I have six weeks to get myself back into shape for my race and I'm worried I won't be able to do it. I haven't been a total couch potato, but there's a big difference between logging 3 miles in a week and logging 3 miles in a run. Tomorrow I'm going to Heartbreak Hill - where I always go to confront my running fears - and try to log at least 3.5 miles. On the way home, I'll stop at the library and pick up a copy of one of Nilsson's CDs that has "Remember" on it and kick back and listen carefully to the nuances of the music.

Until then, I'll try and remember that when I'm sad and feeling down, to turn around and think of all that life can be.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Breaking Wind Pose

Because a branch of my health club has a lunch time Yoga class, I figured, "Why not - it's good to have someone tell you if you're doing it right or not and I need an indulgence day."

OK, things I need to remember: just because the health club is underneath the Japanese food mall doesn't mean I can eat lunch there 3 days a week. I love the Japanese food mall. I love Japanese food - particularly beef bowls and miso soup. Mmmmmm... miso soup. Also I need to find parking that I don't have to pay for since the lot is pretty freaking expensive.

I made it just at the start of class and today the focus was on twisting and stretching the core. That's all well and good but when you twist and stretch your core you get what Mr. Pi refers to as "breaking wind pose." Every so often you'd hear a soft *poot* noise as someone else managed to ... um, massage their intesines.

I was among them.

It was good though. I realized I'm more flexible that I thought and I really have grown stronger. I'm still not quite flexible or strong enough for a tripod headstand or to stand on one foot with my other foot and hands stretched in front of me on the same plane as my spine... but it's cool. I'm better than some and not as good as others and it gives me a measurable goal to work on.

After class I spent 20 minutes on the treadmill - which is a different model than the ones in my regular location - doing a couple of walk/run cycles to start getting back to things. I'm hoping to start running next week now that my breathing seems to be clearing up nicely.

I can't wait until I get back to running... I truly miss it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New (Calendar) Year!

I was all set to run in a New Year's 4 miler but when I woke up to freezing rain and rain, I thought better of it. Normally running in the rain wouldn't bother me, but where I'm just getting over stuff, I didn't want to risk it. So instead I headed into the gym to do some time on the treadmill.

Now it clearly wasn't a day for me to do anything serious. The weather had stopped me from running outside but when I got to the gym, I realized I didn't have the antenna for the Nike+ with me - so anything I did was going to be unrecorded - and I could live with that - but running on a treadmill just wasn't... well, I don't want to say "fun" because I don't expect it to be. I guess it wasn't satisfying.

As I thought about it, I realized this is like when I first started and wouldn't run where people would see me. I was always worried people would make fun of me. As I started up the treadmill, I realized that I had no clue how to program the thing. I mean, if you want to run a hilly 5k course, how do you set that on these things? What if you want to run a flat, easy tempo distance or something in between?

I stood there watching other folks - fitter folks who were all much younger than me - confidently straddle the belt, push some buttons and then they were off. Me, I stood there thinking, "I should know how to do this."

I only spent 20 minutes on the thing - pretty much raising and lowering the speed as I went along according to what I felt I could handle. The truth is, I joined because I want to do weight training and I really want someone there to keep an eye on me so I don't hurt myself. The idea of running on the treadmill on days like yesterday are a bonus.

This week I'll set up my time with the personal trainer to work through some weight stuff and figure out a plan. I've got to get back to form before the Hyannis race at the end of February. I'd like to be able to feel like I could do the half - if I wanted to - even though I'm signing up for the 10k.

It all leads to this week's mantra: I must be patient with myself.