ROOB Workouts

Some folks pop out of bed with a gleam in their eyes and a spring in their step. Not so me. Some days the roll out of bed (ROOB) is practically literal. Maybe I should attach a ramp to the bed so I don’t hit the floor so hard. Anyhow, due to life’s demands, sometimes AM workouts are the only option. Here are some ways to survive, if not always thrive, in the wee hours.

Injury Risk and Diminished Performance

Your core temperature runs cooler in the morning, which can increase the risk of injury. And then there’s fighting that feeling of grogginess… A longer warm-up can help counteract these factors.

My paces in the morning are slower than they are in the afternoon or evening, and I am not alone. This can be improved somewhat by making morning exercise a habit. If you happen to enjoy racing, it’s good to train in the morning at least occasionally since most events are held early in the day. The effect is much less pronounced when performing a simple and/or less strenuous activity, such as walking.

Fueling and Fat Burn

Will working out in the morning on an empty stomach help me burn more fat? I’ve read the cases both for and against it. Some physique competitors swear by it, saying that being glycogen-depleted (like you are first thing in the morning) leads to greater fat burning. However, recent research says that you won’t be able to exercise as long and/or hard on an empty stomach, which negates the benefit. Total calories burned are more important than whether they come from glycogen or fat stores.

Logistics come into play as well. If you’re already waking up long before you want to, you’ll probably don’t want to sit around waiting for your food to digest before beginning your workout. When deciding what and when to eat, the type of workout affects my decision. In general, if I am doing an shorter, easier workout, I’ll do it on an empty stomach. If it’s an intense interval workout or it’s going to last for more than an hour, I’d rather be fueled so I can perform at a higher level. I am personally a big fan of Choclate Cherry Clif Shots on days when I wake up and head right out the door to workout. They digest quickly and the caffeine helps wake me up. If I have to spend some time traveling to a gym or running route, I’ll have something quick and solid like a Luna bar*.

Getting Your Feet On The Ground

Of course, none of this matters if you stay nestled under the sheets. Here are some ideas for those mornings when it feels like Lilliputians have bound you to your mattress with invisible threads during the night.

Will Gulliver be skipping his long run this morning?

  • Move your alarm clock across the room. The first step out of bed is the hardest.
  • Make plans to meet a friend. No one wants to be the one who bailed.
  • Make a commitment on a site like http://www.stickk.com/, where you will have to pay an amount of your choosing to a self-designated beneficiary if you fail to meet your goals.
  • Register for an event. Having a set date where you will be putting your fitness on the line is great motivation. If you have a rival, even better. Picture her wide awake and getting her sweat on.
  • Think about starting the day with a feeling of accomplishment rather than regret.

While I am still a night owl at heart, I have come to appreciate the cool, freshness in the air that only exists in the morning. Speaking of which, I’d better get to bed. I have an early date with my running shoes tomorrow.

*I am not sponsored by the Clif Bar company, but I am more than willing to be 🙂

Becoming a Body Pump Instructor

You know those things that you always think about doing, but you have no idea how to go about doing them? That was me and teaching group fitness. For years I had thought that it would be fun to lead classes, but the thought of filling up an hour with an interesting and effective workout was daunting. I am also not the most coordinated person in the world, so anything I did would need to focus on simple moves.

Five years ago, I saw signs in my gym advertising an upcoming Body Pump instructor training session. I had taken a few classes and knew the basic format: during each song a muscle group is worked to exhaustion using basic gym exercises and tempo changes. Instructors are provided with music and choreography, so I didn’t need to worry about creating an interesting class. It seemed like a perfect fit, so I signed up.

Training took place over the course of three days. After we signed in and received our choreography kits, we immediately went through the latest release. Note to anyone attending a Les Mills training: bring several changes of clothes. And food. Plenty of food. We also spent time going over proper form for all of the standard exercises and talking about what makes a fitness class great.

The next morning, everyone would be teaching a track to the rest of the group. I got squats. Before we left for the day, I listened to the music with one of the instructors while trying to follow along in time with the notes and felt hopelessly lost. How am I going to present this tomorrow? I listened to that song all the way home and stayed up until the wee hours trying to learn it. Things finally started to click for me when I turned off the voices in the DVD and just watched the instructors move to the music while following along in the notes. I slept fitfully that night, and I drove to the training half hoping that I would get in a car crash so I wouldn’t have to present. Squats were first and I felt sick when the music started, but as I started moving and teaching, I started to enjoy myself a little bit and nailed the track. Then I got to participate while the other trainees presented their tracks.

Les Mills likes to put potential instructors through the wringer physically during training, so we got to do something called the Body Pump Challenge. We started with a couple miles of running (something up my alley), then returned to the gym to do sprints, deadlifts, squats, triceps dips, etcetera, circuit style. Sweating, huffing, and puffing ensued. We learned some more practical things about instructing, and then everyone had to teach their track again (which meant that everyone went through the whole workout… again). We were sent home that evening with a new track to learn, and I had chest this time. I was slightly less petrified the next day, and made it through my track without major mishap in both the morning and afternoon sessions. I think everyone was spent after we finished the second round. At the end of the training, everyone was given an evaluation sheet, and I passed.

I now had three months in which to learn the whole 10-track release and submit a video of myself teaching a live class for evaluation. If I passed, I would be a certified instructor. Training was a cakewalk compared with what came next. I started team teaching with different instructors. At first I would do two of the tracks, then I built up to five, which was much harder. The songs were my constant companion. When I’d heard baseball announcers say two and two or three and one during a game, I would feel an urge to stand up and start doing squats. I received feedback from the other instructors: “Don’t arch your back so much on the shoulder presses”, “Your timing is a bit off”, and “Easy on the woos”.

I was finally ready to tape, and seeing that bright, unwavering red light aimed in my direction rattled my nerves. For better or worse, my every move was being recorded for some stranger to watch and evaluate. I made it through the class with a tiny mistake in the tricep track, which I think I covered up pretty well. I gave taping one more shot, but this time I made a mistake during the warm up. I remember thinking, “I just started and it’s already ruined.” I did my best to keep a smile on and deliver a good workout to the class. I decided to send the first filming.

A month or so later, I nervously tore the envelope from Les Mills open and the dreaded word RESUBMIT jumped off the page. A potential instructor is assessed in five areas and needs proficiency in each one to pass (Choreography, Position, Execution, Timing, and Coaching). Four out of five requires a sign-off from the local team lead. Any less, and a new video must be submitted. The main issue was with my “set position,” which is used in almost every single exercise. My legs were a little too wide and my toes were turned out a bit too much, and I failed on position and execution.

I got in touch with the Body Pump team lead, and made technique and team teaching dates on Saturday mornings at the gym across town. She found a lot of flaws that the other instructors hadn’t noticed and it was hard keeping it all straight in my head. A few weeks later, I got an email saying that the RESUBMIT had been in error, and that I should have received a PASS WITHELD. The set position problem was an issue with position only, not execution. I was relieved that I didn’t have to tape again. I continued to work with the team lead. After several more weeks, she signed off on my certification, but said that the gym was not going to offer me a job. She basically said that I wasn’t motivating and that a lot of the members didn’t really care for my teaching style. This happened over the phone at work. I grabbed a friend, went into an empty conference room, and bawled.

There were other gyms in town that offered Body Pump, and I eventually landed at a small club called Better Bodies teaching Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6 AM almost a year after taking the initial training. The critiques I had gotten had helped me grow as an instructor, but it was freeing to finally be teaching for real, without waiting for someone to give me feedback after. There was a wonderful group of regulars who attended and the smaller class size made it easy to connect with them. From time to time, someone would tell me about weight loss or strength gains or just how much they enjoyed taking the class. I continued to get stronger as well. Becoming an instructor was much harder than I thought it would be when I signed up, but it as definitely worth it.

BodyPump1

Cross Country Classic 5K

I like a race with bands, fireworks, and other distractions, but sometimes it’s nice to get back to basics. The Spring Cross Country Classic is an inexpensive, no-frills race. Instead of an event shirt, participants are free to grab leftovers from other races. The post-race food is a potluck (beer is provided, however). Due to park construction, the course seems to change every few years, but hills, gravel, grass, and sand are a constant. This is not a course for PRs.

I was looking forward to seeing my friends who had run Boston and giving them big hugs. Some were running today, and others were there just to support those who were and enjoy this wonderful, crazy community that we’re part of.

The men got to run at 7:30 while the women started at 8:15. I needed to get some warm-up miles in, so I headed to the high school next to the park. There were a bunch of boys in football uniforms getting ready to play, but I got the OK to run around the track. My husband once commented that small children in large helmets look like scrubbing bubbles, and these kids were no exception.

Since it was an all-female field, I lined up at the front. I went out hard and fast to avoid getting bottlenecked during the trail portion. I had learned that lesson the hard way in the past. It paid off, and I was able to run my own pace as we wove through the narrow path. I felt good and hit the first mile at 7:02, which was better than I expected. Next, it was around the soccer fields and where I grabbed a cup at the only water station. Then it was up a sandy hill, and all of the goodness I had been feeling abandoned me.

XCClassic

Back to the dirt road, which was lined cheering male runners.That lifted my spirits a little bit. Thanks, guys! As I naviagted the twists and turns, I was passed by my friend Merry (not in my age group, whew). Two other women also surged ahead, and I later learned the only reason that they were behind me in the first place was because they had gotten off course earlier.

XCClassic2

Merry (in the yellow) getting ready to pounce.

There was some deep dirt and gravel in the second mile, which only compounded the ookiness I was feeling. Merry and the other women had pulled pretty far ahead at this point, and I started having one of those “Why am I doing this?” moments. With what happened in Boston so fresh in my mind, I started thinking about people who had lost limbs* and would give anything to be out running in the sunshine, legs and lungs aflame. I’m doing this because I can. Savor the moment, enjoy the gift. All in. Guts, guts, guts.

With about a half mile to go, I saw a guy in an Enron shirt. I sure hope he wasn’t in charge of the race results… As I rounded the final corner, Tim, who was announcing the race, commented on how well I had been running lately, which made me feel good. The race ened with a slight climb, so my finishing pace wan’t amazing, but I was happy with the effort.

My time of 23:28 was good enough for an age group win. Merry had finished about 20 seconds faster (wow, woman!). I did some cooldown miles, then headed to the potluck. Pickings were slim compared to previous years, but there was a chilled fruit and yogurt salad that tasted divine. All in all, it was a wonderful morning: gorgeous weather, great friends, a satisfying race, and I even got a few compliments on my new running skirt.

XCCLassic3

Race data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/300562470

*While everyone I knew personally was unharmed in Boston, my friend Amy was not so lucky. Her best friend Roseann lost a leg while cheering the runners on. To read her story or contribute to her recovery, please visit http://www.gofundme.com/roseann.

After the Marathon (My first published article!)

I was fortunate to be able to contribute an article to the May/June edition of Tailwinds (a publication that focuses on outdoor activities around the Southwest). You can view it by turning to page 23 using the slider or print page 21 at the link below.

http://issuu.com/tailwindsweb/docs/tw-mayjune-2013?mode=window

I’d love to hear about your post-marathon experiences.

Sabino Canyon Sunset Run

Sabino Mile 0

I must really love endurance sports. I hate waking up early, but I am constantly setting my alarm for 0 dark 37 (yes, I want every minute of sleep I can get) for races. A few times a year, however, a night owl like me gets a treat like the Sabino Canyon Sunset Run. I had a leisurely morning of sipping tea and reading, took a midday swim, and headed to the race. The Canyon is a beautiful spot, popular with walkers, hikers, and runners. There are several trails in the park, but the race course is a paved out-and-back that could be described as pancake flat – if mountains were made out of pancakes.

Because this was an evening race, I was happy to volunteer at the registration table. There was an early start option for the non-competitive runners and walkers, and I handed out those bibs. To keep the line moving, I would frequently shout and point, “Early start see us, regular start see them, fun run, see her.” I wouldn’t be surprised if I uttered those words in my sleep that night.

It was a warm and breezy day. The course starts pitching upwards almost immediately, but it saves its worst for the last .7 miles before the top. I had run 56:28 the year before and my goal was to go under 55. I had no idea if that was a reasonable goal or not. It was just a nice, round number, and a good but not crazy amount of improvement. My friend and rival Kristen, who smokes me in short distances, was running. She and I did some back and forth early on, but eventually I kept the lead. By mile one, we were shaded by the canyon walls. I had spent the week chatting with some Facebook friends about whether or not a twenty year high school reunion was in the works, and had written a parody of the school fight song “Gold and Blue.” Guess what was stuck in my head… That song didn’t even motivate me in high school, but I couldn’t shake it. I did some back-and-forthing with another woman who had a blond braid, and then pulled ahead. My stomach felt a little cranky. I suppose one of the downsides to a late afternoon race, is figuring out how to plan the eating for the day so that you’re fueled but not filled. There are several bridges along the course, and in rainy years, water flows over. That wasn’t an issue this year, but the rapid tempo adjustments was one more challenge on an already tough course.

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When I hit the three mile mark, my strategy was to hammer hard, knowing that my heart and lungs would get a chance to recover once I started downhill. I see this race as a 3.7 miler, followed by 2 or so miles of a semi-cooldown, then a hard finish. I did what I could, but it was so steep I felt like I was limited in how hard I could push because I was running so slowly. Finally, I reached the top, grabbed a water cup, and tossed it neatly in an open garbage bag on the way back down. Now it was time to fly. I ended up passing Jeff, who is a much better runner than I am, so I figured he wasn’t feeling good (he wasn’t). Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life” had replaced “Gold and Blue” in my head, and I was thankful. The bridges weren’t too much of a problem on the way down. There was so much downhill running that it was actually kind of fun to power up those short inclines.

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WIth about a mile to go, things started to get challenging again. There’s a steep hill, a descent, and then fairly level ground to the finish. I fished for a mantra. I started with “Suck it up,” but I didn’t like the way it worked with the rhythm of my footfalls. I shortened it to “Suck it,” but that just sounded wrong. The blond braided woman had overtaken me by this time. She had a good lead, but was still in sight, so I decided to use “Blond braid.”

I had done a long run with a fast mile at the end with my friend Keith the week before. He had complemented me on my finishing kick, and I decided that I at least had to try to chase her down. I could also almost hear him giving me form pointers like he had during the run. Blond braid. Fast turnover. Blond braid! Use your butt. BLOND BRAID! I was gaining. I pushed hard and felt strong. According to the Garmin, I was running a 5:24 pace at the finish, but I ran out of room and she finished five seconds ahead of me. My time was 55:07, which was good enough for first in my age group and very close to my goal. I was really happy with the run, but wishing that I had started that kick just a little sooner…

Race data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/297536566

vV02-vV02-vVroom

I’ve been doing track workouts for years: quarters, miles, ladders. Simple. Straightforward. Run hard, try to hit the paces, rest, and repeat. Sometimes the distances get mixed and matched, but I haven’t experienced anything revolutionary… (let the voice in your head drop an octave) until now. Recently, my coach introduced me to the V-Run. Basically, the athlete attempts to run every meter of the workout at vV02 max pace, the velocity at which V02 max (maximum volume of oxygen that your muscles can consume per minute) is achieved. Depending on the source, it’s the top, sustained pace that a runner can hold from six to eleven minutes. My coach likes to use racing mile speed, or in my case, what he thinks my mile time should be, which is six minutes (twenty seconds faster than I’ve ever run). At least it’s pretty close to what the McMillan calculator predicts.

Here’s how it works. The runner is assigned a distance (3600 meters for me), chooses a starting interval length (50-1200 meters), attempts to run it at vV02 max pace, and rests a minute before beginning again. If the interval is run too slowly, the next one must be shortened. The rest period doesn’t change, regardless of the distance run.

The benefits of this workout:

  1. The runner spends a great deal of time running at vV02 Max pace, which will help improve V02 max.
  2. It’s self-adjusting. Whether you’re having a great day or an off day, the workout will meet you where you are.
  3. It will put hair on your chest. Ladies, make sure you have extra razors on hand before attempting this workout 🙂

I’ve done the workout twice so far. The first time, I started with a hard 400 and had to drop down to 300s immediately (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/284127673). These hurt just as much, and I started hoping that I would be slow enough to shorten the interval. I ended up completing six before dropping to 200s. The next time out, I was able to run four 400s before having to drop down (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/294115776). Progress! There were some repetitions where I thought that there was no way I had finished in time, but I had. When I finally got to the 200s I was a bit faster than I needed to be, so I think I’ll try 250s the next time. Here’s hoping this translates into a blistering 5K next month.

If you’re a somewhat experienced runner looking for a tough, effective workout that’s a little different, I encourage you to give it a try. For more information on vVO2 max and some additional workout ideas, click here.

Monitoring calorie burn

Many gym goers live and die by the calories burned feature of their heart rate monitors. Call me a Cynical Cindy, but I’ve always thought that some of the numbers that I’ve heard people throwing around seemed kind of, well, high. As someone who is interested in helping other people be fit, this concerns me. Could inflated numbers lead to extra eating (I burned it all off plus some, so pass me another cookie)? Will people become discouraged when weight loss is much more meager than expected? I don’t claim to be any sort of expert, but I enjoy research and this is what I’ve learned.

The best way to estimate calorie burn is by measuring oxygen consumption, but this is cumbersome outside the laboratory (and not to mention costly), so people have sought other methods. Heart rate is relatively simple to monitor and there is a relationship between higher heart rates and increased calorie expenditure. It’s not a perfect correlation, however. Heat, dehydration, stress, and caffeine can all increase heart rate even while calorie burn remains static. Unless an exercise session is short, cardiac drift also becomes a factor. As core temperature rises, the heart works harder even if oxygen uptake remains unchanged.

Heart rate zones vary from person to person and can change drastically as someone becomes more or less fit. The old “220 minus your age” method is a wide generalization and may be flat out wrong, especially for women. At the end of a hard race, I’m pegged at about 165, while a male friend who is about seven years younger will hit the 180s on a moderate run. This leads to the question “How accurate are the resting and max heart rate values that the monitor is using to perform the calculations?”, if even uses them at all. Most companies do not publish their formulas, so we don’t know.

How does weight factor in to the equation? According to recent findings, running burns approximately .75 calories per pound per mile (± 5 calories/mile). A 135 pound person running 7 miles in an hour expends around 700 calories, while a 160 pound person would burn 840, even if their heart rates were the same. Running is a good exercise for performing comparisons, because the movement is relatively standard and it’s much easier to benchmark against a measured mile than say, 15 minutes of Zumba. People who like to experiment might want to try running a mile with their heart rate monitor and compare the calorie burn against the formula above. If the numbers are extra generous (or stingy), I would expect that trend would carry over to other forms of exercise as well.

There are a few other caveats to consider. The less vigorous the activity, the less accurate the results. The numbers are virtually useless for strength training.  One scholarly source listed the Polar’s “laboratory error” as 16.9–20%, and some other brands were worse (see Table 1 in the linked document). Heart rate zones and weight need to be kept up to date to for the most accurate readings, but it’s easy to forget to do it. 

Even if the calorie readouts are skewed, there is still value in training with a heart rate monitor. If your goal is getting the most burn for the buck, they’re good for comparing different activities. They’re useful for tracking fitness gains. They can be help detect overtraining (is your heart rate much higher than normal during a certain activity?). Many athletes use them determine training intensity. They can provide clues about why you might be having an off day. For example, during one of my marathon training long runs, I really struggled through the last couple miles. My heart rate was low, which led me to believe it was a fueling rather than a fitness issue, and I was able to fix it the next time out. Some people find seeing a calorie burn can be highly motivating and might even go the extra minutes or mile to reach the next round number. By understanding its strengths and limitations, the heart rate monitor can be a valuable instrument for helping people achieve their fitness goals.

HTML tutorial
For more information on heart rate monitors and other methods of tracking calorie burn, check out the following article. http://www.wired.com/playbook/2012/08/fitness-trackers/

Want to be fit and trim? We have secrets!

I like fitness magazines. They’re a great resource for new exercises and recipe ideas. They keep me up to date on fitness trends and gadgets. And yes, I find the pictures motivating. On the other hand, the covers can wax a bit hyberbolic for my taste.

Your dream body in just 2 weeks!
Bikini Ready in 7 Days!
One minute to flat abs. Our must-try move.

Color me skeptical*. One word that’s been jumping out at me lately is secrets. I get it. Eating right and working out is hard. It’s tempting to think that the reason someone else is leaner, faster, or stronger is because they’re privy to information you don’t have. Is a new pill, diet, or exercise apparatus the missing piece to the puzzle? I decided to paw through a stack of old magazines, and I’m ready to spill…

Secret Dogs

Tell me how I can lose my pooch.

Drop a Dress Size 20-Minute Secret Solution (Shape, January 2012, page 100)

A workout featuring compound exercises using a FreeMotion cable machine. Many muscles are worked during each exercise so you can get an intense, full-body workout in a short amount of time.

45 Celebrity Hot Body Secrets (Shape, March 2013, multiple pages)

I couldn’t find an article, but there were celebrity tidbits sprinkled throughout the magazine. Were there 45 secrets? I didn’t feel like counting. Here’s what I learned: Jessica Alba and Elisabeth Hasselbeck do Crossfit, Emily Blunt does pullups (it says she can do four sets of 20 reps – if that’s unassisted, I’m seriously impressed), Ashley Greene does Pilates, weights, and yoga, and Eva Mendes works with a trainer.

There was a nice feature on Laila Ali’s diet on page 102. She eats things like oatmeal, egg whites, fruits, veggies, lean meats, flax, sprouted bread, almond butter, lean meats, and homemade ice cream. When she needs to get something quick, she’ll stop at Whole Foods or a Subway, where she asks for the bread to be hollowed out in the center.

Malin Ackerman “I work hard for my body!” Her summer shape-up secrets (Shape, June 2012, page 36)

To prepare for her bikini shoot, she consumed a diet of 85 percent vegetables/15 lean protein and bumped up her workouts to five SoulCycle classes a week. She normally eats fresh food as opposed to processed and enjoys a thick steak and french fries about once a week. She also acknowledges that she has good genes.

Get Sexy Legs Fast Pro Secrets Inside (Shape, October 2012, page 58)

arnold-press

I’ll be back with even more secrets.

Four exercises selected by none other than Arnold Schwazenegger. They include the Arnold press, concentration curl, front squat, and deadlift. I found it interesting that only two of the exercises actually work the legs.

Flat, Sexy Abs (Even After Four Kids) Brooke Burke’s Fit Secrets (Fitness, January 2012, page 24)

Her diet secret? Never skip meals. She’ll use harissa, a Middle Eastern spice paste, as a low-calorie way to jazz up dishes. She also works out  five days a week for an hour a session, mixing Pilates, strength training, and treadmill walking with a 15% incline. During exercise she wears a Baboosh body wrap, a product she created, to “sweat out all the bloat.”

Burn calories all day long! Slim down secret (Oxygen, Sep 2012, page 78)

Another article highlighting exercises that use multiple body parts to expend energy more quicly. Most of the moves are performed using cable machines.

15 “Keep it Tight” Secrets! (Oxygen, Nov 2012, page 84)

How stretching and flexibility affects overall fitness.

Shrink Your Belly Plus More Slimming Secrets! (Oxygen, December 2012, page 96)

An elastic band workout routine. Bands allow resistance to be applied to the muscle in certain directions that can’t be mimicked with free weights. Reps can be performed at high speeds, and you lose the ability to use cheat using momentum. Bands are also cheap and portable.

So, there you have it. There are some interesting tips. I’ll have to try harissa, but I’ll pass on the Baboosh – my sweat glands are active enough, thank you. Compound moves provide a great bang for the buck. For the most part, however, I see a lot of working out and healthy eating. Nothing earth-shaking there. Sure, there are some new exercises, but push ups still haven’t gone out of style and don’t cost a dime.

Try different moves to mix things up. Use the standards that have a proven track record. Just make sure to get moving, because no matter how great the advice in the magazine might be, turning pages doesn’t burn a lot of calories – and that’s no secret.

*This says the woman who has been known to succumb to an impulse buy when a magazine promises to Banish Cellulite Forever! I haven’t achieved full banishment, but I have managed to lock it up in a tower, Rapunzel-style, and give it a crew cut.

Be Tucson Women’s 5K

Last weekend, several of my friends were off running a 50-mile trail race and various marathons, so I feel a little wimpy talking about my 5K. I have learned that while I enjoy racing up to the half marathon distance, I don’t really like racing marathons and sometimes I feel like a lesser runner because of it. Saying “A 5K” when people ask what you’re training for sounds underwhelming, but enough about my distance insecurity.

This was the first of three 5Ks leading up to my goal race in May, and I was looking forward to running the distance again. I had talked with my coach about it, and the “strategy” was to go out hard and see what I was able to do. Last year’s time was 22:28, and I wanted to go sub-22.

I could rattle off the names of several women in town who run faster than I do, but I didn’t see any of them when I picked up my number. I started to think, Could I actually win a race? Then I saw my friend Jamie, who is much speedier than I am, but she’s been injured. Next I saw Pam, who also usually beats me, but she’s been dealing with injury as well. I visited the potties, had my Chocolate Cherry Clif shot, ran an easy mile, and it was race time.

It was a gorgeous, sunny morning. I’m not the most well-traveled person, but I believe that Southern Arizona in the spring is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I tentatively took my place directly behind the starting line. I like racing with men, but sometimes it’s nice just to compete against the ladies. The course was simple: three loops around an outdoor mall, complete with quick descents and steady climbs.

 Be Tucson Start

The first section was a fast downhill, and I went for it. I was in the lead, and it was strange and exciting. I was wearing my Garmin, but I wanted to set my pace by feel for the most part. I was able to entertain thoughts of winning for about three quarters of a mile until I was passed by the eventual winner. Someone who has more experience leading the pack might have tried to catch her, but it was still early and I wanted to keep running my own pace. I think it was a smart move, because she ended up beating me by almost two minutes.

Passed

Getting dropped by the winner

My Garmin beeped at 6:21. I question the accuracy because it was another twenty seconds before I crossed the mile marker and it was also a second faster than I have ever run a stand-alone mile. A couple of other women passed me before we headed back to the steepest downhill section of the course. I surged past one of the women on the decline, but she overtook me again once the course flattened out. Jamie passed me around the mile and a half mark. By this part of the race, I was starting to feel the strain of my fast start. I though about running off course to shop when I passed Ann Taylor (a clothing store, not a person). No, not seriously – they weren’t open yet 😉 I started catching up to the walkers and had to weave through some of them.

Be Tucson

Run now, shop later

My second Garmin mile split was 6:52, which was a lot closer to what I was expecting. This time the incline leading back to the street felt much steeper than before. I started to hear shouts of “Go Caroline,” but I didn’t turn to see how close she was. My mental DJ selected Linkin Park’s “Bleed It Out” as I tried to stay strong for the last half mile. Jamie was no longer in my sights. 

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Down to the wire

My Garmin showed 7:13 for the third mile, and I felt like throwing up by this time. The last part of the race was uphill, and I dug in. I was starting to pick it up as I approached the finish line, and then I heard an announcer say ,”This is going to be a race to the finish.” Somehow I was able to squeeze out a little more and finished less than a second ahead of Caroline. I was fifth overall with a time of 21:55. Even though each mile got progressively slower, I was happy with my race. Sometimes you need to go out hard and test your limits.

Be Tucson Fun Photo

Fast women have good times

I ran a couple of cool down miles, refueled, and chatted with some friends. I also met a few new people whose names I recognized from past race results. There was a “Fun Photo Booth” set up, so some of us grabbed some goofy headbands and got our pictures taken. Free race pictures were posted on Facebook later that day, which is always nice. Out of respect to everyone who was out for an enjoyable morning of shopping that morning, I decided to head home and keep my sweaty self out of the stores. Thank goodness for anntaylor.com.

I like color blocking

Long live color blocking!

Race data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/279932298

A Tale of Two Workouts: Stopping, overcoming, and the stuff between the ears

Yasso 800s on the treadmill. It was a workout I had done several times leading up to my marathon last December. Challenging, yes. Brutal, no. One month after the marathon, they were on my schedule again. The first couple felt okay, then they got progessively harder. Normally, the first couple are the hardest while my body tries to adjust to the pace. This time when I finished the sixth one, I was spent. I had been in contact with my coach about how I had been struggling with some of my workouts. His advice to me was “When in doubt, rest,” so I decided to pull the plug. Since I had so much experience with this workout, I knew something was off and I felt that trying to finish might set me back more than it would help.

Fast forward a couple weeks. Same workout. The first few 800s were challenging. Number four was worse. I considered bailing out. During my recovery “lap”, I remembered a quote that went something like, “Once you start quitting, it becomes a habit.”* I still felt like I had made the right decision the last time, but was the fact that I had bailed out weakening my resolve? Would I start taking the easy way out during races? I knew that I was physically stronger than last time, so I told myself that I needed to at least make it through six. Then I pushed through number seven so I would at least be able to say I had made progress. I felt I could do another, and after number eight I knew I’d make it through all ten. Victory was sweet.

Knowing when to stop or modify a workout is tricky. People who have been exercising a long time develop a mental toughness that allows them to push through extreme physical discomfort. As Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own “The hard is what makes it great.” This kind of attitude can lead to tremendous accomplishments, but if we ignore everything our bodies are telling us, we can end up doing ourselves harm. Some good reasons to stop or scale back a workout include:

  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Feeling the after affects of a race or hard workout
  • Staganting or slowing down despite consistent workouts
  • Mental burnout

While “quitting” can be the smart thing to do, it’s also important to make sure a detour doesn’t become a U-turn. Let’s face it – exercise is often inconvenient and uncomfortable. There’s a reason why most people don’t stick with it. A pattern of skipping workouts leads to diminished fitness and discouragement which makes it even tougher.

I still think that ending the first workout was the right choice, but I was surprised at how much it affected me the next time around. Training my body continues to teach me a lot about my mind.

* The official quote was Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.  -Vince Lomardi