Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fit Lit Chat: Keep the Connection

I have hit a rough patch in my training. It seems that I have developed terrible shin splints, which is not something that I have really ever had to deal with before. I've tried rest, ice, stretching, icy hot, and I just can't seem to shake them. This is normally the point where I'd give up on my goals that I set after achieving some success with my 10k. As some of you may have gathered, I tend to use books and articles to keep me motivated and informed. I did a Fit Lit Chat about a couple books that I used to keep me engaged in becoming more physically active over the winter. I have just started reading, Keep the Connection by Bob Greene. I never read Make the Connection, his first book, but I have already been struck by a point in this book, and I'm still on the first chapter.

"All too often, people attempt change without really knowing who they are, what they want or why they really want it." -Keep the Connection by Bob Greene

This concept has been plaguing me lately. I really want to invest in my personal health on the physical and emotional level. I made a slight career shift in order to reduce the stress in my life, which was also one of the reasons I took up running and yoga. Another reason I took up running, was to prove that I could do whatever I put my mind to, even if there were people who didn't believe I could do it. Maybe I could even say especially because people didn't think I could do it. Even with my successes and failures along the path to physical and emotional health along with my career shift, I still  find myself contemplating who I want to be and what I want to do. I always thought those questions had more to do with my professional life than my personal life and quest to better health. I see now how intertwined they are.

Photo: Run it out.
I recently saw this picture, and It is sort of how I feel when I run. When I am running, I do a lot of thinking about who I am, and I also feel like I can be anyone. I feel like I am still defining who I am. Even though I have committed myself to running, I know that there are still so many people in my life who view me as lazy or weak. I absolutely hate that am I thought of in that way. There are two other things that I know. 1) I am the only one who can choose whether or not I live the life of an active and strong person, and I mean strong both figuratively and literally. 2) I don't have to define myself by other people's opinions of me.

There is one more revelation that I'd like to share. I get to choose who I want to be. I get to choose if I am going to live an active, healthy, strong lifestyle, but the catch is that I have to choose and not just once. I have to make the choice to be active on a regular basis. I have to make the choice to let go of other people's ideas of who I am or who I should be. I have to make the choice to put my health before my immediate satisfaction sometimes in order to gain long-term satisfaction. I have to make lots of choices, and I have to make them every day. I have made bad choices in the past, and I will still make bad choices at times in the future, but the beauty is that when I make a bad choice, I can also choose to let it go and start moving forward again. I don't need to beat myself up, and I most definitely don't have to let other people beat me up. I will just remind myself of who I am and who I want to be. It is time for me to decide what I want, and why I really want it in order to attempt at some real changes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Getting high leads to bad choices and overdoing it.

I have slowly been coming down off my runner's high from Saturday's race, but I have not been able to stop talking about or thinking about running for the most part. I felt so good on Sunday, which was nice because I would normally be recovering from a half marathon's  aches and pains. The 10k was a great choice. I have been talking with my brother Joe quite a bit, who you might remember ran my first half marathon with me, and finished under a minute after me on our chip timing, but I won't let him live it down because I will never beat him again. If you haven't read my background story, I encourage you to do so now. Joe has perpetuating my addiction to running by telling me to keep training and racing as much as I can now when I have fewer commitments to compete.

I decided my brother was right, and I threw myself on a treadmill for a short interval run on Sunday afternoon. When I stopped the belt at the end, I thought I was going to have to have Matt carry me out of the gym. My left shin was in some serious pain. I went home, iced it with a large bag of tater tots, and took some ibuprofen. Monday morning, I did some yoga, and I took a rest day.

This morning was rough for me because I didn't sleep well last night despite feel exhausted when I got home from work. Joe had also encouraged me to mix up my playlist, so I slowly woke myself up with a cup of coffee and some serious playlist revamping. I started getting excited for my run, and I got all decked out. I had on my tights, an old 5k shirt, my Nike Bowerman's, hydration belt, sunglasses, running watch, and a brand new playlist at the ready. I could feel the tightness setting in with my first steps. By the end of mile one, I was emitting small shrieks of pain. I stretched out again, and walked a bit, hobbling in pain. I stretched again. I hobbled some more, and then I resigned myself to giving up for the day. I turned back in the direction of home.

Now I know I said you need to check your shame at the door recently, but it is hard to do when you are hobbling back all decked out, complete with hydration belt. There are times when I like to go for a leisurely walk, but I do not wear my running gear because I feel dumb wearing it when I am just walking. I know that passersby probably aren't really paying that much attention, but it's hard not to think that they are. They don't know that I can and do run. They don't necessarily know that I am in pain, but it was disheartening to say the least.

I am going to attempt to take it easy for a few days, but I can't wait to hit the pavement again because I have signed up for another race in a couple weeks. It is really easy to get down on yourself, but in the end, a little bit of exercise is better than nothing and trying is better than giving up before you start. Nobody ever said that running, getting fit, or staying fit would be easy. Giving up is easy. Don't take the easy way out.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Amazing Race

Pre-race with Matt
Today marks one year since my first half marathon, so what better way to celebrate than with a race? After the Joplin Memorial Run Debacle of 2012, my Anything for 10 Sister advised me to take some time off, and sign up for a 10k this fall. I did just that when I found out that I was moving to Pennsylvania and lived close enough to do the Runner's World Festival 10k. I posted a 10k 6 week training program on my blog, but due to life getting in the way, I ended up just running about 2 5k's a week for three weeks and calling it even.

I was pumped when we got to the starting line because the 5k was finishing, and Bart Yasso was up on stage with Dean Karnazes, and I was just a few feet away! I was too excited at the time to realize that I should be taking pictures, but no fear; I saw Bart again. It seemed as if the sight of them had sucked my energy because I felt like I was dragging when I started running. Matt, my fiance, quickly pulled ahead of me even though I didn't let him get too far out of sight. The fact that he had only run two times total to prepare for this race also weighed heavy on my runner's psyche. At the end of mile two, I was then passed by the overall winner who was finishing mile four. It seemed that was the last straw.

Immediately after the blow of a steep hill combined with getting passed by the winner, I decided to let myself walk part-way up the even steeper hill I suddenly found myself climbing. I looked over and there was Matt! We spoke briefly through our huffing and puffing, and then I realized I needed to get ahead of him right then, and find away to push myself to still accomplish at least beating him. It's not that I didn't want him to do well, but at the time, it seemed like all I had to hold on to, so I clenched on to that thought with all my strength. I focused on the things I'd written earlier this week to help dismantle that mental wall.
Scenery: Oldest continually operating bookstore

At the 5k mark, I looked down at my watch to find that I was at 35 minutes! Holy crap! There was still a chance that I might be able to finish in a decent time! This was also the point where I started wondering how they had managed to make a route that had only uphills. It just didn't seem topographically possible, yet I also knew that I had only had one slight downhill that was nothing in comparison to the uphill I had to trek to get it. That's when I heard someone say, "What goes up, must come down." And I knew that person was right. I kept pushing even though I wanted to walk.

Finisher's Medal
In the end, I may not have met my original goal, but I didn't let it get me down or ruin my race. I am the type runner, who in the past, I let little bumps in the road completely destroy my confidence. I consider this race a major victory for me based solely off the mental obstacles I overcame. After my 1:10:45 finish, I am ready to start preparing for the Delaware Half Marathon even though I have till May. I have never claimed to be fast, but an 11:23 average pace is something that I personally am proud of, and that's what's so great about running; each challenge is your own, and nobody, not even the first place finisher, can take that away if you don't let them.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dismantle the Mental Wall

Many times the hardest battle we fight when it comes to getting fit is the mental battle. I know by the fact that I have completed two half marathons that my body is capable of so much more than my mind gives it credit for. I have had runs and workouts where I have essentially given up as soon as I have started, but I have also found some ways to dismantle the mental wall brick by brick when I am running.

Practice Pacing

Pacing is important. I used to think that because I am not fast I didn't need to worry too much about my pacing. I have figured out that I am very wrong. When my pace is all over the place, then I run the risk of depleting my energy too quickly causing the wall to knock me flat on my rear. If I find that my pacing is off, I will focus in on my steps to fall into a bit of a rhythm. And even if you enjoy music when running, it is very important to turn it off for a few runs if pacing is a problem. I have also found that listening to music on my phone without using headphones and only the phone's speakers keeps me from pacing to the beat of the music too much.

Michelle's 3 M's

The three M's of running that I use to stave off the mental wall are Moment, Mantra, Meditate. It is very important to be in the moment when running. I do this by focusing on the little things around me that I wouldn't be able to take in if I were driving down the same street in a car. Sound dumb? I urge you to take a jog down a street you drive often; it might surprise you what you've missed. Look at the plants, animals, bumper stickers on cars, decorations on porches. Say hello to people you pass, wave to cars, and make it fun! Give yourself a mantra to keep yourself going. Anything for 10 seems like a good one to me. Running can also be a time to meditate, in whatever manner that may appeal to you. Maybe to you it means clearing all thought, focusing thoughts on problems you've encountered, or praying. 

Important tip: Plan ahead; don't think ahead! If you know you need or want to go a certain distance, plan your route ahead of time and memorize it so that you can stay in the moment instead of thinking about where or how far you have to go or have already gone. Put the distance out of your mind during the run and worry about that before or after.

Pump it!

Occasionally I will realize that my legs are beginning to drag. I usually realize it when I nearly trip due to stubbing my toe due to the dragging. When it feels like your legs are full of lead, start pumping your arms faster. I have occasionally told myself, "Come on, Michelle, one foot in front of the other," but this is the wrong idea. Body mechanics show that your legs will follow your arms, and it is much easier to focus in on pumping the arms faster than it is to focus in on the heavier legs.

Hold your head high!

My last tip has two parts. It is easy at difficult parts of a run to let your head drop or to begin looking at your feet. This is a bad idea because you are partially restricting your airway when you let your head drop, so hold that head high! This also goes to say that it is not the end of the world if you have to stop, walk, or just have a crappy run in general. Just know that you are trying, and even a bad run or walking is better than nothing at all. Just keep moving. You can do anything for 10!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Check your shame at the door, people!

I think that both runners and non-runners alike can agree that it takes a certain level of crazy to be a runner, and that level of crazy increases as the mileage increases. Another universal truth of running is that you have got to check your shame at the door. Literally. I personally have found this to be especially true when colder weather moves in. It takes guts to run in the cold, and the temperature isn't the biggest factor in that statement.

Owl Hat!!
I know that I personally look like a lunatic when I run in the cold, and I am perfectly fine with that. I have a running beanie that is moisture wicking and has a ponytail slot, but sometimes I just want to force myself to have fun on a run, so I will throw on my owl hat. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like, a hat that looks like an owl. Today, I forgot to wear my sunglasses when I left. Sunglasses are important for me when it's cold because I'm one of those cold air criers. I always have been. The glasses help to block the cold air, or at least make it harder for passers-by to notice the crazy-steady tears streaming down my face. It is fun to see the very concerned look on their faces though when they see a crazy lady running down the street who appears to be hysterically crying.

It is important to get over the social norms about different bodily functions that may or may not be appropriate for public, as well. I am very glad to say that at this point in my life, I have never had to squat in someone's bushes for a pit stop, if you know what I mean. There are many, many runners who have, but I hope not to end up there. But with the cold air, I can say that sometimes you just have to spit. When you breathe in that cold air, it is inevitable that the mucus will start to run. So you can let it run down into your lungs and hack all day, or you can spit it out as it you are running. Snot rockets are also an acceptable alternative, but I don't think I'm coordinated enough to keep the snot rocket from hitting me while I am running, so I just spit.

No shame! I took a picture to prove it. Haha

And whether it's cold, hot, or in between, I always sit down in the parking lot at my apartments and stretch when I get done running. This may not seem like a big deal, but when you run, you sweat...everywhere. There is almost always someone passing by or standing around when I stand up. I'm sure that they are judging the butt-sweat print that I left on the pavement, but I don't really care anymore.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Go Green! Tea, that is!

I have been hooked on green tea for about a month now, and I love it. I have, for so long, been afraid to try green tea. I remember tasting some that a friend was drinking at work once, and I thought it was terrible. I was 16 then, and I tried it again for the first time about a month ago.  I have heard all kinds of different things about how great it is for you, but I decided to look into it myself. I am going to share the benefits and helpful tips to going green.

Green tea is full of antioxidants, which have natural anti-inflammatory properties. The antioxidants in green tea are called catechins. These are thought to fight free radicals, which can help prevent different types of cancer. Some experts are skeptical of this aspect of the benefits of drinking green tea, but there are still many other benefits that most experts agree on. Green tea lowers LDL, increases HDL, and reduces the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease and diabetes. It can also help to relieve some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Now if all that wasn't enough to get you to go green, how about the digestive health properties of green tea? Green tea helps to clean the digestive system of toxins, which aids in the digestion of food helping your body to properly absorb more nutrients, with the exception of iron found in fruits and vegetables, which green tea can block. This can be solved by adding lemon to green tea, balancing the digestive properties back out to absorb iron from plant sources. Green tea also oxidizes fat cells, which can make it seem like it's given a kick start to your metabolism. The important thing to remember about all the possible benefits of green tea, is that it is merely a supplement to a healthy diet and active lifestyle!

So, what do you need to know before you start downing the green stuff? First, to reap all the benefits of green tea, you should start by consuming the actual tea and not just a supplement. There are many green tea supplements on the market today claiming to be a magic weight loss pill, and let me tell you, there is no magic pill because there wouldn't be so many people struggling with obesity if it were that easy. Next, you should always drink the tea right away. The tea contains the most antioxidants when it is freshly brewed, so don't let it sit for hours, and skip the pre-bottled stuff. Next be ready to use the restroom more often than you may be used to because it is also a diuretic. Diuretics are substances that cause the body to release sodium and water. My last warning is that you should not drink green tea on an empty stomach. You don't have to eat a meal with it every time, but I have learned from experience that it can make you feel very sick if you haven't eaten.

I still start my day with a good old fashioned cup of Joe, but I have started drinking green tea through out the day to keep me alert. It does contain caffeine, but it only contains about 40mg of caffiene, where as a cup of coffee generally starts at around 100mg. My favorite brand of green tea is Tazo Zen green tea. It has a hint of spearmint, lemon verbena, and lemongrass. It is so yummy, but Tazo teas can be a bit pricey. It is one of my splurges, but I am sure that there are other brands that are way cheaper. Also, I am not the biggest fan of hot tea, so I drink mine iced. I was afraid of green tea for so long, but I wish I had tried it again sooner because I feel like I've been missing out.

**I am not a health or tea expert. I researched all this information just like any other person would. I got my information from WebMD, Harvard Medical School's Harvard Health Publications, and the Mayo Clinic.**

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Michelle's Favorite Things

I am not going to start throwing pairs of my favorite running shoes to my readers yelling, "You get a pair of shoes! You get a pair of shoes! YOU get a pair of shoes!" like Oprah, but there are some things that I have been enjoying lately, and I thought I would take the time to share. I am going to tell you about some websites and products that I think would be worth checking out. I am going to cover gear, tips, relaxation, and charity for your workouts.

Who doesn't love new gear? I know that I love it, but my wallet doesn't always love it. I have found a solution to my problem. The website, The Clymb, sells name brand discounted gear. I am so glad that my sister told me about it and invited me to join. You have to be invited by a member, but then you can browse to your hearts content and score some major deals!


Free Tips!
I have never had the benefit of having a personal trainer. I would love to, but considering that I am buying discounted gear, I obviously can't afford it. I do love to read magazines and books about fitness to enlighten myself. I am pretty pumped about a new website that is a collaboration of writers at Prevention, Men's Health, Women's Health, Runner's World, and Fitness. There are all kinds of great tips, tricks, and motivation on the website from experts.


Smartphone App
I have not been able to try this app out, but I would love too. My phone doesn't support this app, but my phone also died today, so maybe I will be getting a new phone that will. Yay! Charity Miles is an app that uses gps to track the miles you run, and they donate money to a charity of your choice for the miles you run.

I am a member of a website called influenster, and they send out products to try and review. I recently tried some gum called Bach Rescue Remedy Natural Stress Relief gum. I chewed a piece as I was winding down to do some Hatha yoga, and I could feel the tension melting away before I even. I am definitely try more products from this company. It's all natural and it works.