Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Wake Up, Sunshine

My biggest barrier when it comes to running is not the aching pain of hills, nor the muscle screams in my calves or dragon-like fire burning through my lungs. It's actually something much less frightening though equally powerful:

I'm a morning runner, and there's no way to change that. I get home from work around 7PM and want nothing more than a cheese-filled meal with my husband to accompany our nightly viewing of Jeopardy! Delaying that by 40 minutes so I can cover myself in sweat is not only unpleasant, but impossible. My energy level on night runs is non-existant. My body is more tired and my breathing doesn't feel right. It's just awful.

Thankfully, I am indeed a certified morning person. This has served me well over the years in just about every area of life that doesn't involve human interaction, but even the AM queen that I like to think myself to be can have a hard time getting started when sleeping is just so gosh darn fun.

When I decided to train for a marathon, I knew the most important question to ask myself involved how I was going to get in all of those extra training miles. For someone like me, the only answer was to become extremely disciplined about getting up earlier and allowing no excuses to keep me in bed. Like most parts of marathon training, that's easier said than done. Thankfully, I've taken the last month to hone a few handy tricks to get me in my running shoes before the sun shines:

1. Decide your plans the night before AND DON'T CHANGE A THING.
For a while, I was counting on "seeing how I feel when I wake up" to decide whether to run or not. Guess what? At 5AM, I NEVER saw myself feeling like I wanted to run. It's 5AM for crying out loud. The skunks and opossums still have jurisdiction over my park.

I finally realized that pre-sunrise, I'm simply not trustworthy. I now plot my running schedule over the course of the week, carefully inserting rest days when I know I may be up later the night before. Unless I were to wake up with pink eye or, I don't know, a missing eyeball (neither has happened yet), I roll out of bed and follow the plan. So far, it's working.

2. Schedule a very specific snooze.
The snooze button is the enemy of anyone trying to wake up in the morning, but it's the absolute nemesis of a runner trying to get some miles in before the work commute.

In my rougher days, I'd set my alarm and hit the you-know-what button. And then I'd do it again. And again. Finally, my fail-safe actual get up WITHOUT running alarm would go off and I'd resume my usual morning schedule, only with a tinge of guilt and self-shame.

My new system is a little more calculated. As I've learned that I need the pre-wake up feature, I now set my alarm 10 minutes earlier than my actual wake-up time. Rather than the snooze cycle, I turn off the first and either sleep until the 'official' alarm or, if I'm frisky and ready, get up with the first. I don't let myself think of it as snoozing. It's more a warmup, leaving less to chance or again, the silly notion that at 5AM, I can trust myself to "feel like running." That ain't gonna happen.

I've also newly discovered the joy of "naming" your alarms, letting me tell myself exactly what each one means. Hence, when "10 minute warning" sounds, I can rest easy. When "get up and move your fat a$$" goes off, I scowl at the nastiness of that more awake chick that programmed my phone. Then I get up and move my fat a$$.

3. Go to sleep knowing what happens next.
Aside from the obvious trick of laying all clothing out in an easy-to-reach place, something that helped me has been to mentally prepare myself for the morning. I check the morning weather just before bed to know what conditions I'm working with (warmer days may mean shorter runs and later alarms, cooler mornings might mean hills or adding a mile, and thunderstorming danger means skip it or do an exercise video). When my head hits the pillow, I try to fall asleep thinking about what kind of workout I'm hoping to have. While on most nights, my brain usually makes a few stops in different areas of focus (work issues, the enormity of the universe, still trying to remember how to explain the ending of Lost), it's a handy, boring little topic to busy a tired brain with. If I'm lucky, I fall asleep thinking about the next morning. There's something weirdly zen about it.

4. Drink up.
There are some things I can sleep through. Thunderstorms. Gunshots. Cats meowing for breakfast. Cats firing gunshots. My snooze button. My husband's snooze button. The apocalypse, most likely.

You know what I can't sleep through? The need to urinate. I am not a superhero.

A simple trick: right before I turn out the light, I drink.

A half a small bottle of water usually does the trick. I pee just before bed because I'm a human being, then load up on more hydration before going to sleep. I'm not the kind of person who wakes up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, partially because I tend to sleep through the night like the baby nobody ever has, but more because I just really HATE getting out of bed before it's time to wake up. Part of that is the aforementioned gun-toting felines that prowl my hallways demanding attention or subsistence as soon as a human stirs.

If I have JUST ENOUGH water in me, I will ultimately have no choice but to get out of bed when my kidneys demand it. There's certainly a balancing act in learning not to drink too much for fear of 3AM emergency stops, but once I found that magic number, I haven't slept past my running alarm.

Thus far, all of these tricks have helped me amass more weekly miles than ever before during my run-heavy days. Will they last? Time will tell. But so far, so good...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Good for Her, Not For Me

Hello lovely people of the internet world, Emily and I are a few weeks into our training and have not yet given up, so I call that a success! A few more runs are under my belt with 18 weeks until the Marathon. This week has been dedicated to running for longer stretches without stopping, and to trying to get out of my head a little bit.

While running, I have been listening to the Audiobook of Amy Poehler Audiobook, Yes Please. It has been   tremendously helpful, because she gives me a lot to think about and ponder on while out of the road, including just imagining why Adam Scott is not my TV husband.

One quote from the book got me thinking for a good long while, and helped me to run consistently without mentally complaining for like a whole 15 minutes! (Yes, that is the current record)

“That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. Good for her! Not for me.” 

"Betsy, what are some of my "Good for her! Not for me" situations that you've realized over the course of your 33 years of existence?" Well, great question! Here is the current list that would receive my "Good for her! Not for me" commentary relating to training and overall health stuff. 

"My body feels stronger now than it did when I was in my 20s" 

My body currently is revolting against me and the restart to running. It was just getting  comfortable on the couch and is hoping I'll just give up so it can go back if it gives me weird aches and pains in body parts that I don't think should have aches and pains. 

"I rarely think about food. I can go hours without eating!" 

Although I'm trying to change, I constantly think about food. Even the kid in my class last week selling weird candy bars and Sprees out of his backpack sometimes get my money! Actually, now that I think about it...what am I supporting with my donation? And where is he getting Sprees? Do they even sell them anymore?

"Oh, I don't really like red meat. Grilled chicken is my go-to dinner" 

Someone told me this recently, and I smiled and nodded.....imagining the meatballs I was eating the minute I arrived at my house. 

"You know what's a waste of time? Watching Reality Television: What trash!" 

I have tried numerous times to give up Bravo, knowing it's trashy..... but then Vanderpump Rules starts...or Southern Charm....or Real Housewives of New Jersey....and I'm back on the couch. 

"I really don't have any interest in drinking during the week" 
I went to a running club recently because I knew there would be beer at the end.  Sure I met some nice people, and ran on a Tuesday Night and felt great about joining like- minded runners..... but the beer! The beer was the BEST! 

"Fast food? DISGUSTING! I wouldn't touch it with a 10 feet pole" 

I am literally eating a Wendy's Chili as I type this....as a snack........ 

"Running is my favorite form of relaxation" 
Books + Food + Whiskey= My favorite form of relaxation 

"I immediately feel better after I run" 

I immediately feel like I may DIE after I run...sure later I feel better and accomplished and wonderful, but right after, I praise the Good Lord that I survived and didn't pass out or puke in front of passing cars. 

These "Not for me" comments are not just complied from people who have actually said them out loud, but from people I imagine in my head. My imaginary critics that I have created over the years, who would be fitter/faster/happier than I currently am because they follow this kind of advice. I imagine them also as flat chested, blonde haired women, possibly of Icelandic decent...kind of like the woman from the Mighty Ducks 2. Not familiar? Here's a picture: 

Yup, the things I think this woman would say and do haunt me, and make me feel like I am doing something wrong. 

Hopefully with time, I can really buy this "Good for them, not for me" mentality. Maybe a nicer little acronym for it (GFTNFM? Nah, too many letters). For now, I'll just fake it till I make it, and keep on adding to my list with every comment I hear.

Anyone have anything to add to the GFTNFM list? 

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Hidden Benefits

Mondays, right?

Nothing more to be said, usually. We all roll out of bed with our Game of Thrones hangovers thinking "Why, old and new gods and lord of light and mother of dragons, why?"

More realistically, we THINK those questions, but due to the quicksand filled fishbowl that is our brain at the start of the week, it mostly comes out as "Hodor, Hodor Hodor Hodor, Hodor?" For me, this condition can last the entire day. By "day," I usually mean it's Wednesday and suddenly I'm somewhat aware of my surroundings.

I don't think I was conscious of just how sluggish my days had been feeling until, well, they weren't. Last week, I took up a small but harder-than-it-sounds-for-someone-like-me challenge: run 6 days in a row. Not run far or hard, just get outside in the morning and put in at least a mile from Saturday to Thursday.

The "getting out of bed" being the biggest challenge, of course

Waking up was shockingly easier than it had been over the last few months (during which the snooze button had become that ultimate bad-for-you best friend). Running was a tad harder, but the weather was kind and I easily got through the week, building a little more distance each day. I deliberately decided not to time myself or use MapMyRun. This week wasn't about speed or time improvement: it was purely to wake my body up after a long period of once-a-week walk/jogging.

Shockingly, it REALLY worked! It was about 2PM on Monday when it dawned on me that I had been awake all day. Not "awake" as in "not falling asleep under the soothing buzz of an office fluorescent light," but physically and mentally alert in a way that I hadn't realized that I'd been missing. When you work in an office environment, it's dangerously easy to let the immobility of the job make it feel okay to, well, feel immobile. I'd been walking to the water fountain rubbing my eyes as if it was normal, but this week, I learned it really didn't have to be.

I can't promise this elevated feeling will last forever, but for now, it's a great encouragement to tell me that I'm doing something right. When you don't lose weight easily or automatically graduate to adding another mile onto your run with confidence, it's hard to feel motivated to put so much effort into health. For me, this is a nice reminder that there are positive results not measured on a scale.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Oh look... another person!

Why hello there!  A new blogger is in our midst... who've thought!?  I'm sure you're all wondering, who is she?  Where did she come from?  Is she running this marathon too?  In short, I'm Erica, I'm from Ronkonkoma and hello no!  All due respect to Betsy and Emily, they have far more grit and determination than I do, but marathons are just not for this lady.  Although I do intend to begin training for a 5K sometime soon (I bought new sneakers and downloaded the app so that counts for something right?) I don't really foresee any marathons in my future.

So why am I here then?  I've been asking the same question which is why this post has taken so long.  I think that I was invited to join this lovely blog because much like my beautiful, amazing blog-mates I've struggled with my body almost my entire 33 year existence.  I remember being only 12 years old and already questioning the girth of my thighs in comparison to my friends!  It's been a long journey with this body and it's only over the past year and a half that I've learned how to take care of it and feel good about it and be proud of it!  Which is sheer insanity to think about.

I've done the diet thing before, my method of choice was Weight Watchers for a long time, primarily because my mom was a lifetime member so I had access to all of her accounts and point counters for free.  And it worked for me... twice.  I lost a good amount of weight and felt great!  And then I gained it back, and then I gained it back again and then gained more than I ever had before on top of that.  It was clearly time to do something different because this wasn't sticking.  My (new at the time) boss convinced me to join Jenny Craig with her.  It had worked for her previously so I figured it couldn't hurt!  And it didn't!  I've lost 60 pounds to date, but it wasn't really thanks to Jenny Craig and her food.  Although I am still eating their food 2-4 times a week (my goal is set for 15 more pounds) it is out of sheer convenience for those days I get home and don't feel like cooking.  Oddly enough, being on JC actually taught me how to eat properly.  It taught me portion control and using vegetables to fill my plate, all the same basic tenants of "healthy eating" we've all heard before, but for some reason on this plan it clicked for me.  It may not work for everyone but I'm grateful that it works for me.

So I guess that's primarily why I'm here, because to some degree I like to think I've beaten the curve.  I tackled the largest part of 'fitness' by taking a fairly large amount of pounds off my body.  But doesn't mean my hard work is over, like I said I have 15 pounds to goal, a number of yoga poses to master, 5Ks to run and then comes the ultimate challenge... maintaining it all.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Secure the Girls, We're Running!

From the Iron Islands to Long Island, the saying says it all.  We're back, stretching out our sports bras to the max. 

I finally feel like I understand the saying "sick and tired of being sick and tired". I am enough out of shape that I've forgotten what it is like to be a runner. I dream about the way I used to feel and the way I used to be. In my late 20s, I was running consistently and lost about 40 pounds. I would make running my only afternoon priority and push myself to go farther and faster whenever I got the chance. I liked how it felt to take care of my physical body. As the years have past, well, you know what happens.  The 40 pounds lost have been gained back and then some, and responsibilities of an adult life have hit me hard.

I've tried the restart other times, but always started off on the wrong foot. I hoped that every time I ran, I'd somehow transport to my 25 year old self, to the "way I used to be". Obviously, while running has amazing powers, it is not a time machine. I'd then become resentful of my slower times and aging body. I'd feel super positive before starting, but after the first run, I feel like my brain became Statler and Waldorf watching me and making comments.

Maybe shouldn't have eaten those French Fries for lunch  dummy. 

So, what's different? I've changed. I've done self work.  I view life and my "failures" differently, and see the world in a better way. And,  I listen to Audiobooks.

Yup, Audiobooks restarted my belief in myself as a runner. I am an English Teacher after all, and corny so bare with me.

For years, I was unable to listen to Audiobooks, no matter where or what the situation. My mind would race, and I couldn't focus. Now, I listen to Audiobooks anytime I'm in the car by myself, and actually enjoy it (whether Mindy Kaling or Thomas Hardy)! It become a real "stress reliever".... a concept which seemed as foreign as choosing to skip dessert.

One day, I put the headphones on, laced up my running shoes, hit play on the Christopher Moore Audiobook, and went for a run....and enjoyed it.

I feel that if I could handle Audiobooks, I could handle training. And not just any training.....Marathon Training!

Yes that's right Ladies and Gentleman.... Emily and I are getting ready to take on the Suffolk County Marathon.  We've got 157 days to get ready and I believe we can do it. Hell, Emily and I have pulled off bigger heists than this......oh wait... I shouldn't talk about that on the internet.....so I'll end here with a creepy Greyjoy picture and call it a night!  Go team!

Healthier Me: Take 2 (or 10, 11, and so on)

So let's just say, I was on a break.

A writing break.

A running break.

A "move your body in healthy ways" break.

If you're a sometimes earnest healthy person born into the body of a naturally unhealthy one, it's easy to live your life in waves of fitness. I suppose others like me--certainly several immediate family members who presumably share the same genes--have the ability and self-discipline to make fitness more than a fad and part of their everyday life.

I'm still not there.

Triggers get me, and get me moving. The most recent one came in the discovery that a reliable pair of pants had become nearly impossible to zip. As a 5'1 high size 12 who despises few things more than shopping, this is a disaster.

Or a blessing in ill-fitting disguise.

For those who don't fit common size cutouts, pants shopping is hard. When you're short and stout like yours truly, you land in an odd inseam netherworld where you cross your fingers in the hopes that you can pull of normal-sized people capris as standard trousers without anyone noticing. Sure, some brands will separate out their lengths into "Tall," "Average," and "Short" but what the hell does that mean? 5'1 is short, but so is (I've been told) 5'4 and 4'10. How can one delineation span 6"? Many a manufacturer (eyes narrowed at you, Old Navy) will make senseless estimations that a waist size correlates with height, meaning size 0s are, for no good reason, designed for women my height, while 14s are reserved for Olympic volleyball players. Because that makes sense to someone who's never worn clothes.

But that's a fight for another day. On this one, we're just going to take the good and say, "pants not fitting makes Emily mad makes Emily realize she need run more now."

So that's what's happening.

Last summer, I did something terrible to my back that resulted in a brief run of physical therapy, constant wincing, and a terrible weekend where I walked with a cane and never once got to pair it with a top hat. Following that, I couldn't find the heart to put back into major physical activity. Now I see that I've been paying for that lethargy with a few extra pounds and more importantly, a genuine sense of blobbiness.

I run for a lot of reasons, but one key factor has always been the underlying sense of fitness I feel it provides me. That level of health that helps me believe that in case of zombie apocalypse, I just might get away. At the moment, I don't know that I have that. My best bet is to heroically sacrifice myself while shouting "I got this! Go save yourselves!", mostly because the alternative is me being that slowboat who keeps falling and ends up causing the death of my entire team who were foolish enough to try to help me up.

If it all comes down to a potential attack of the undead, I'll take it. If it's to prevent pants shopping (six of one, half dozen of the other really) I'll take that too.

It's not about being overweight; it's about feeling overweight. As I've said before, I've never headed down a diet path with any goals of being a size 4. The last time I gave training my all, I lost a whopping single pound when all was said and sweated. But I felt good, and that's what I need to find again.

There's a half marathon in sight. A giant vat of cottage cheese in my refrigerator. A new sports bra on order. With these things and a blood vow with my running life buddy Betsy, I think I can do it. What's there to lose?