Friday, August 31, 2012

It's getting better all the time

This morning I felt stronger and chose to do a test.  I walked down and up the Brookline hill this morning for 2 trips.

The hard part is trying hard not to run down the hill.  I've also started running up the hill for brief bursts with the goal of being able to run both up and down the hill by the end of September.  Today; however, all that was put on hold until my ankle is 100% again.

Now keep in mind that I suspect had my achilles been 100%, stepping in a chuck hole would not have mattered as much as it did.  But no matter, the stars aligned in a way to sideline me for a week and come back slowly, but come back I will.

I took Monday to support other folks working out and Wednesday I was a cheer leader for folks doing a tour of Harvard stadium.  Today I couldn't sit still.  I walked down the hill with an older gentleman from the neighborhood.  He told me he walks up and down the hills in the area for 90 minutes every morning, no matter the weather.  Now that's #weatherproof!  I made it up the hill and felt pretty decent and stopped to assess where I was at.  I felt I could handle one more tour and halfway up the second time, I realized I was done for the day.  There was a bit of twinge and it was clear I needed to rest.

Coming home, I iced and rested.  I feel good about moving my body today. We have Monday off for the holiday and Wednesday I'll have to get up early as I have to be at school for 8 am.  I'm covering for the PE teacher, so I look forward to an amusing week of making kids sweat and run in circles again.  A lovely way to start the school year. :)

In the mean time, enjoy Labor Day weekend.  Remember, it's one of the very few holidays we have that doesn't celebrate a war, so try and do something peaceful to end the summer months.  Perhaps a run or a walk around the neighborhood.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I could never....

If I could ban a three word phrase from the English language, it would be, "I could never..."  We limit ourselves so much with those three words:

I could never run...
I could never run a (insert a distance here)....
I could never do a triathlon....
I could never ride my bike (insert distance here)...

Instead we sit on the couch and proclaim what we can't do, lament our current state of being and long for something we wish we could be.

I am one of those folks.  At the beginning of the summer I kept telling myself, "I could never...." In my case, it was I could never get up early, go to a boot camp training and find a way to reach my goals.  But here it is, the end of August and I am able to do a half tour of Harvard Stadium in spite of the feelings of vertigo.  I can handle a 16% grade hill and I can do push ups/sit ups to correspond a deck of cards.  All things that I "could never do" last June.

But I want this to be positive, so I would change those three words to, "Someday I will...."

Someday I will run....
Someday I will run (insert a distance here)...
Someday I will do a triathlon....
Someday I will ride my bike (insert a distance here)....

I am now off the couch and moving.  In spite of an injury earlier in the week - and as a side note here, if your dog digs a hole in a public, please fill it back in - I am still getting up and cheering on those who struggle to get to the workouts the way I do.  (Never underestimate someone reminding you, "You got this," to help push you through when your mind wants to quit.)

If you walk away and just once say, "Someday I will," instead of "I could never," then you've taken a step forward and that's a good thing. :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rising Higher

My wings lift me up
whenever I have fallen
and I soar higher


Today's music selection was Balkan Beat Box.  There's something about those crazy rhythms, accordion as a house music instrument and rapping in Bulgarian that makes me smile and inspires me.  Yeah, I'm weird, but it's all good.

Whenever I go out for any workout, I set 3 goals: minimum, expected and the "I totally rock at this" goals.  I also got through a half tour of the stadium.  Lately I've been pushing myself through 15 sections and usually around the 10th section I'm dying.  Today it was around section 15 when the jelly legs kicked in.  I suspect a piece of that has to do with the humidity and using my inhaler before getting started since my allergies are kicking up right now.  I admit that the half tour was my expected goal, 15 was the minimum and 20+ was the rocking goal.

But what struck me this morning was Brogran, the fearless leader of the November Project, reminding folks it's time to turn the fitness industry on its head.  While you respect that some people need those crossfit, PX90, gym memberships and running club dues, fitness is something that can be done for free and turning out with a growing group starts getting people moving.

It's true.

When I met Brogan at the Big Man race in June, I mentioned that I was thinking about signing up for a boot camp to get myself started.  He suggested I come and give the stadium a try.  It was free and I could do it.  With the economy what it is and my job on hiatus until Labor Day (for all you folks who think teaching is a piece of cake, you try going without pay for 3 months and tell me how sweet it is... yeah I saved some of each paycheck to get through the summer, but still, would you really tolerate that in your job?), I figured free is good and if it didn't work out, well, I could always sign up for a boot camp.

I'm 7 weeks in here and bootcamp isn't even on the radar any more. I'm sad that I won't be part of the bigger group once Labor Day rolls around and I have to be home no later than 6:45/7 so I can shower up and get to school on time.  I'll have to get to workouts early and finish when folks are starting on Wednesdays and Fridays.  I won't be entirely alone as there are folks who get there early so they can do a full frogman tour (50 sections), so I look forward to that bit.  I still have the rest of the month to go to enjoy a routine that has inspired me so far.  Yesterday I found myself pulling out my cards and doing a deck of cards workout while watching TV as sitting seemed too little.  I've been out walking, I'm riding my bike more and more.  While I love McGreevey the Wonder Bug so much (what's not to love about a black on black 6 speed turbo bug that can go wicked fast and has butt warmers for the winter?), I've spent less time in him these past 7 weeks than I have in all the years I've owned him.

This has changed my life.  It can change other people's lives as well.  Even if you're not showing up at Harvard Stadium at the butt crack of dawn on a Wednesday morning.  Imagine putting on shoes and walking out your front door.  Imagine walking up and down the risers at the local high school football stadium or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work.  We shouldn't be relying on other people to tell us what we can and can't do, we need to rely on ourselves.... and if you need a group of folks to help you do that and you're in Boston, then come join us.  It costs nothing but the feeling of "I should do something...."

Who knows, maybe it will get under your skin and you'll find yourself doing something crazy like feeling good about your jeans looking like mom jeans because they're so big and baggy or that shirt you wish you got in an XL and now wishing you had the M instead because the L is just a bit too loose these days.  Maybe you'll find that you really need that personal trainer to push you or that you enjoy the comfort of a gym, at least you'll appreciate those things a hair more.  What have you got lose... but some weight and self doubt?

Friday morning we'll be at the corner of Summit and Beacon in Brookline at 6:30 in the morning for our 5 hill repeats.  That is my expected goal of this week: walking up 5 times and running down 5 times.  I can do it.  Come see if you can do at least 1 or 2 trips up the hill yourself.  If nothing else, the view from the top looks pretty sweet and let everyone else guess why you're smiling as you sip your coffee with a new gleam in your eye.

Monday, August 13, 2012


"The best navigator doesn't know where he's going until he gets there.  Even then, he's still not sure...." - Jimmy Buffett

Today was a destination deck workout.  That means the November Project meets at a destination to do a deck of cards workout (red = sit ups, black = push ups and the number on the face is the number of how many you do).  I am far enough out from the meet up spot that I take the T in but I've started wondering to myself, how do I make it my destination?  I suppose I could get off at Kenmore and jog in.  Perhaps I could run to the T stop and take the commuter rail home.  Then I asked myself if that had to be the destination, destination or just a layover during the day.

When I got home, I regrouped a little and then got on my bike to ride a half hour to Weight Watchers and a half hour home.  In the end, I rode further than if I rode my bike to the T and home again as WW is over a mile past the T stop.  So today looked like this:

6:30-6:50: destination deck (we had 19 cards left vs last week when we had 29 cards)
9-9:30: bike ride
11-11:30 bike ride

I still have to walk over to the post office.  I think I'll walk up to the yarn store the next village over to scope out the new yarns I can't afford (seriously, bamboo yarn can cost as much as $49 for a skein... a SKEIN!) and then home again before tackling laundry and food shopping.

So what's my destination today?  Was it Copley Square for the deck?  Was it to WW or home?  Is it to the yarn store or errands?  Perhaps it's my bed tonight and the dreams beyond.  Who knows, I just know I'm on my way there.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Game On!

Today is Nike's "Game On" day, a day where they challenge everyone to run, walk or move somehow.  I also had a homework assignment this weekend from the November Project folks to write up my workout from this weekend.

Well boys, I did a couple.  My sister and I went out to walk a couple of miles yesterday.  We both needed it and it's something both of us would have had no time for if we didn't do it together.  It was hot and sweaty and it felt good when I sat down in my parents' air conditioned living room for a glass of water before I headed home.

This morning was the tough one for me.  I used to get up on a Sunday morning and go for a run as a habit.  I fell out of the habit a while ago and it's been a struggle to get out the door since.  I admit I was discouraged.  No matter how hard or often I went out to run, it always seemed like running continuously was just out of my reach.  When I got home last night, I told myself I had to run this morning.  There were no ifs, ands, ors or buts about it.  So before going to bed, I put my running gear in the bathroom so there'd be no excuse.

At 5:00 Odin cat work me up.  Yes it was a "If you can see this, you're awake enough to feed me" moment.  It always is that time of day and he gave my nose a little nip to make sure I knew he knew that I wasn't still in the land of nod.

I rolled over and drifted off for about 15 minutes while he head butted and squeaked and otherwise tried to get me to feed him when I finally gave up hope of sleeping.

Victory #1: I didn't give in to the thought, "I'll just go down and take care of kitties and then get dressed.  Instead I made myself get dressed and go downstairs.  I watched the morning news, reminded cats they don't get fed until after 6 (like they listen anyway) and dug out my running shoes, earbuds and case.

Victory #2: I was on the road at 6 am.  My initial thought this morning was running 2.6 - 1/10th of what the men would be running in London.  Instead I pushed myself.  I know if I can run 3 miles continuously, I can train for a half marathon.  Today wouldn't just be homework, it would be an assessment. (I'm in the teaching trade we no longer call them tests ;) )  How far could I run continuously?  Was I ready for some real training after 6 weeks of working out?

Victory #3: I set the Nike+ settings on my phone for 5k, started running and didn't stop until I passed the 4.6k mark.  That's right, just inside that 1/4 mile circle back to the house, my hips finally caught up with my mind and shut me down to a "walk it off" pace.  Too bad, I was on my way to a negative split until that point too.  But the point is, I ran 3 continuous miles without walking.

For some people, running 3 continuous miles is nothing.  It's a light workout.  For people like me it's that just one victory to get me on my way.  Not only that, my final pace - even with the walking - was 12:25.  When I got home to sync my run, the badge popped up to tell me I earned the Nike Global Game On badge for running today.  Perhaps I'll take a trip into Niketown later see if they have a special shirt or something... I feel like I need to celebrate this mental victory.

So now, with the sounds of the mens' marathon in London in the next room to encourage me, I'm laying out a training plan for the Tufts 10k in October.  I'll pick a half for some time beyond that.  So yeah, I did my homework and passed my assessment.   Life is good.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

We raise our banners high....

"Out of the dark the fragile come
into the bright of the day...
we rise and stake our claim
we raise our banners high and sing in union...
we live free and die free
we stand as one and take on all
on the road to victory."

Today's music was the Ramshackle Army, a Celtic punk band out of Australia that opened one of the St. Pat's shows at the House of Blues for the Dropkick Murphys.  Their song "Uprising Young Citizen" seemed appropriate today as we were asked to bring shirts to be tagged "November Project." It's a shirt I'll wear with pride because this is one I've truly earned.

The numbers of this group have grown exponentially since I started doing this.  Looking back over the last six weeks (has it only been six weeks?), there were about 40 people and today there were probably close to a couple of hundred!  How amazing is that?  We truly are a ramshackle army throwing off the conventional gyms and workouts to challenge ourselves on our own terms.  It doesn't matter if you're an overweight middle aged woman walking the stairs or a fit athlete that is doing "the Frog man" (50 sections in under 30 minutes).  We are there and we are high-fiving, cheering and encouraging each other to keep going.

Today I covered 15 sections in under 35 minutes a PR for me.  (^_^)  There were only a few "I think I want to die" moments and I realized how hard I was pushing myself when I understood why people puke when pushing themselves to the limit and beyond.  My water wasn't sitting well as I kept pushing instead of stopping.  I only paused a couple of times on the trips up and only sat at the top once.

One high point today, as I worked my way up a section about 25 minutes in, someone stood at the top and "reeled" me in to keep me going.  "We all need a little help sometimes," she said with a smile.  Another woman and I kept reminding each other "20 minutes to go, we got this..." "only 10 more minutes, keep going...." "you can get one more section, there's just under 5 minutes to go...."  At the finish, when we were picking up our shirts and getting ready for the group photo, people were all greeting each other in a similar manner: You looked good out there, how many did you get in today?

It is easy to work out when you have support.  It's also easier to push yourself when you see others doing so as well.  Let's get real, too often our minds quit on us long before our bodies do.  Whether it's the mental fight with the bed magnet in the morning, walking instead of pushing yourself a bit more when you run, that last set of reps that get the better of you... you name it.  We hold ourselves accountable more easily when we know we're accountable in public.

I will really miss this group come the start of the school year.  Most people have an extra hour to get their butts into work than I do.  I have to be in the building by 8, which means leaving the house by 7:40 and with a shower ahead of that, I have to be home by 7.  This gives me two choices: finish my work out by 6:40 or find a way to connect virtually.  Instead of Harvard Stadium, perhaps the football stadium at the local high school and the killer hill across from the high school that climbs over 100 feet in .23 miles similar to the Brookline hill we run on Fridays.  Deck of cards work out?  I have a living room floor and a deck of cards.... I can continue this and will have to mentally flash on the summer days where people smiled, high fived and called out encouragement.

So I will raise the banner of this ramshackle army high and with pride and really enjoy pushing myself the next four weeks.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Deck of Cards and Hubway

Today we met by the giant Arthur Fiedler head on the Esplanade in Boston for a 20 minute deck of cards workout.  Deck of cards workouts are when you assign a specific exercise to suits of a deck of cards and the number on the card is how many you do.

This was a first for many things today for me.  First I had to get to Boston and I can't take my bike on the T, so I spent a bit of time thinking things through.  First I realized that if I got off at Copley, I could grab a Hubway rental bike and ride over to the Esplanade and park there and grab another one back to the T.

Having never done a deck of cards work out, I wasn't sure what to expect there either.  They kept it easy for us in that it was red cards were sit ups and black cards were push ups (or was it the other way around?)  Our group made it half way through the deck in the 20 minutes.  Some of us took turns holding members' feet so they could do the sit ups and some of us switched off to  push ups on our knees to be able to do the full amount with good form.

The guys announced that part of the work out was how we got there.  It was a chance to run some miles or whatever it was we needed to do to add to that 20 minute core workout.  With that in mind, I decided to ride the Hubway bike all the way up Comm Ave from Arlington Street to Kenmore Square.

Here's the thing, the City of Boston has marked bike lanes (a new experiences for me), but it's on the left hand side of Comm Ave until you get to Charles Gate East where the Back Bay turns into the Fenway neighborhood.  Then the lane goes across all the traffic to the right hand side where cars are turning onto/coming off of Storrow Drive.  Fortunately, at 7 in the morning, traffic was light but I could see this being a nightmare during commuter hours.

I followed the bike lane around the outskirts of Kenmore and decided to go as far as the Landmark Center by the Fenway T stop.  Along the way I passed various other folks from the November Project heading out.  They had gone for a run towards home or the T and passed by in a couple of different spots along the route.  My early morning ride felt good and I parked the bike easily at Landmark Center and grabbed the T back to my car and home.

It was a good workout this morning, a couple of easy bike rides, a solid core workout and a lot of new experiences to get me going for the day and for the week.  I'm already checking commuter rail and bus schedules to see if I can take my bike into town for the morning and then find a pleasant ride home before school starts up and my mornings are booked with getting out the door to work.  Until then, I'll take full advantage of my 3 a week August workouts.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Get off my back!

Hawthorne had to wait
while I ran 4 hill repeats
in Brookline today


Today was 4 hill repeats, a new PR for me.  It didn't feel bad and, to be honest, I probably could have pushed myself to 5 but this damn Hawthorne paper is weighing heavily on me.  If you haven't worked hard for a grade in a class that should be in your wheelhouse but isn't, then it's hard to explain why the last few weeks have been all Hemingway and Hawthorne.    I am a writer, but critical writing feels so forced and tedious.  I just don't understand why it doesn't flow from my finger tips to the keyboard the way a piece of fiction or poetry does.  A 1,000 word column, no sweat.  A 1,000 word critical analysis of the role of gender in Hemingway... not so much.

On Monday, when I press the send button, I will feel free from Blithedale and the Utopian experiments of the mid-late 1800's New England and I have four glorious weeks of my style of writing before I go back to herding small children.

Unfortunately, Nathaniel Hawthorne stands between me and that sense of joy right now.  So up and down the hills, when I wasn't chatting with locals about what we were doing and why, I was trying not to run with dear old Nathaniel.  He was too sad and his whining about people not getting his vision of Utopia only slowed me down as it sat uncomfortably on my shoulders.

Instead I chose to put him down and fall back into Reverend Peyton's "Mama's Fried Potatoes" and Flatfoot 56's "Hoity Toity" to recapture the joy of running.  So back to ride the shores of sanity off the coast of vanity of Utopian societies in New England, grateful for that 50 minute escape I had this morning.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Eleven Easy Steps and Chet Stedman

Using music as a motivational playlist for your life is nothing new.  When I drive into Harvard or out to Brookline, I keep my iPod on shuffle to see what tone I need to set for myself.  Today's inspiration came from Trout Fishing in America.

Umm.... Trout Fishing in America?  That odd book by Richard Brautigan that inspired hippies everywhere back in the day?  Nope, the band from Texas that do acid folk and kids music that adults can listen to without wanting to stab their eyes out with a fork.  (Screw Raffi and the Wiggles, my kids grew up listening to Trout and They Might Be Giants... before they started doing kids' music along with good old rock and roll.)  Trout keep getting nominated for grammy awards and lose to Elmo.  When they lost to They Might Be Giants, it was all cool because that's kind of like Judy Dench losing the Oscar to Meryl Streep, it was a call that was more of coin flip than because someone was better than the other.

But I digress.  Trout set the tone today with their song "Eleven Easy Steps" and the declaration, "I know imagination is the only thing that can stop me."

If you have never done a stadium step run when you have a touch of acrophobia which leads to a sense of vertigo, then you know that your fears are in your imagination.  That image of your broken body after it's rolled down 30+ concrete steps to lie broken at the bottom of the wall is your imagination.  It is that "can't do" instead of your "have to." (For those of you unfamiliar with the "have to" speech, rent a copy of "Rookie of the Year" and it's that fabulous moment where even Gary Bussey realizes how incoherent he really sounds.)

Banishing the image from my imagination, I started up the stairs today with a new goal for August: how far can I get in 35 minutes?  This is important because come September, I have to be at school at 8 am, showered and ready to herd cats... I mean elementary students.  Thirty five minutes gives me a good work out and enough time to get home, shower and head into school ready to face the day.

Taking a deep breath, I let my good imagination kick in.  The one that saw me in a pair of jeans a size smaller before the school year starts.  The one that saw me getting stronger, faster and ready to rock.  Up the stairs, down the stairs and do it again.  Less breaks for shorter times, section by section I pushed and climbed and clambered down.

In the end I managed to cover 16 sections in 35 minutes, a new PR for myself.  Not bad given my hip flexors were flipping me off the whole time.  Had I let myself go to where I finished last week, it would have been in less time than I finished last week... either way, it works.  I went to the "have to" and my imagination didn't stop me.