Category Archives: fitness

88th in my age group

Last weekend, I ran a 5K, wearing my employer’s logo. I finished in 88th place. In my age group.

I ran hard–hard enough that I thought I might throw up as I approached the finish. And I broke a ten-minute pace for the 3.1 mile course.

Of course, me being me, I was thrilled with the time they texted me–for about ten minutes. It was clear from the almost-throwing-up that I couldn’t have done better during the race.

I’m not talking about the day of the race, or the day before. Or the month before. I’ve run enough in the past month that I’ve had to back off and give my legs a little time to recover.

But there are things I can do to get a better result. The first isn’t directly tied to effort. It’s research. If I’m going to start being serious about things like race times, I need to build some knowledge. I’ve started that process with a couple podcasts–neither of which is right for me. So I need to keep looking.

Then, rather than just running to run, I can run with a purpose. In my case, I aspire to finish a marathon. Given the issues I’ve had completing thirteen miles, that’s a lot of work. Given that summer is coming, it’s going to be miserable work.

This is supposed to be running in hot weather. I have that much sweat after three steps.

But I want to know what it feels like to cross that finish line.

I also need to be more focused on my diet. I don’t eat the way I did when I was 23–but I can do a hell of a lot better. The lack of improvement there is just laziness. Junk food only has the intrinsic power you give it. The M&Ms guys aren’t junk-food sirens luring people to their dietary deaths.

Hey, big boy. I got a little something for you. I’m a green M&M, baby.

And finally, I need to train smarter. I need to find out how to properly stretch. The days where I could get away with kind of stretching this and that and the other are gone. I can’t run through potential injuries any more.

And I need a specific plan. One that’s manageable for me. A couple of friends have a plan they use–and it might be the right one. But they’re a lot younger than I am, so it might not be.

So I’m pleased with my run time. But I’m not comfortable about it.

I’m not saying I was 87th loser. But I sure would like the break the top forty next year.

And I really do want to know what it’s like to cross a marathon finish line.

Five years ago, I couldn’t run a hundred yards. Today, I can say I’ve run faster than I ever have before. That’s a big accomplishment–and cause for gratitude. But it’s also just a taste of what’s possible.

I want the whole damn buffet.


Instant winners (’cause that’s a thing)

I posted once online that I ran eight miles. A Facebook friend posted back that it would take her hours to run eight miles. I replied that it took me months.

In a couple of weeks, barring injury, I’ll complete a half marathon. I’m treating the 13.1 miles as a formality at this point. It’ll be a long formality, and there may be internal angst. But I managed 12 yesterday and they give you a t-shirt at the end, so…

In mid-October, I was struggling to get more than three miles. Six months ago, I was doing a lot of walking. A couple of years ago, I was doing the same, mostly walking. It didn’t take me months to get here. It took years. And yet here I am. 

And two friends of mine just completed their first marathon. One of them took a picture of their Garmin watch reading 26.39 miles (why she ran the extra two-tenths, who knows?).

They’ve been training a year for this. Wake-up calls before 5 am to get the miles in before work. Long runs in the dark when it was Satan’s Armpit degrees outside. Running lengths on hot days that sound like violations the Geneva Convension.

Mandatory Miroslav Satan picture, showing both armpits. I wish it were that cool.

I wonder what it feels like to look at your watch and see the numbers 26.39. To know most people will never do that. To know that there were significant times, perhaps even the same day, when you thought you would be one of those people.

To be clear, I’m not saying marathoners are somehow superior. They just focused their attention on a specific thing and worked their asses off, and achieved it. (I can vouch–my friends have very small asses.)

Maybe it’s not a marathon. Maybe it’s writing a novel. Maybe it’s painting a beautiful picture. Maybe it’s playing your favorite song on an instrument.

Whatever it is, it’s there for you. All you have to do is take it. And my take it, I mean put in hours of work over months or years of time. I mean doubt yourself and consider yourself unworthy and your goal stupid (and continue anyway). I mean find someone who will cheer you on, get in with you, and kick your ass when it’s necessary. I mean pour your soul into it.

All you have to do is that, and you’ll achieve your goal.

As I said, I’m going to run 13.1 miles in a couple of weeks. And already, I want more. I want to see what it looks like for my running app to say 26.2.

That means I want to drag my ass out of bed and run long when it’s Satan’s Armpit degrees outside. I want to cruise by people who are happy and comfortable in their beds and consider myself a freaking moron for not being like them.

This could be you. Idiot.

I want to have to say “No, I’m sorry I can’t do that–I have to train,” or “Love to, but my legs are just completely shot to hell right now.” I want to hate running and to decide I’m never going to run another freaking step (until my next scheduled run).

Because, as with any goal, those are the building of getting to the good thing that you want.


The glory of being bad at something

In order to add some kind of movement and structure to my life, I’ve been practicing yoga of late. As I read of recovery stories from ME, yoga and meditation play an active part in most of them.

When I was pressing play for P90X and P90X3, yoga was among my least favorite routines. I want to sweat when I work out. I want to feel my heart pump and experience that glorious burn through my muscles. I want to feel the exhilarating fatigue of the first few steps after a long run. I don’t want to stumble around like a drunk on a roller coaster trying to do some movement that the chick in the yoga pants performs perfectly on the video.

Except for the Santa suit and the parking garage, this is what it looks like when I do yoga.

But, right now, yoga is what I can do.

I would tape it and show you but I still have a little vanity left. Put another way, practice is the right word. If the town of Halfmoon, NY saw what I was doing this morning during the Halfmoon segment of 30 Days Yoga with Adriene (Day 15), they would sue me for everything for defaming their good name.

Halfmoon. A community forever diminished. By me.

I. Am. Awful. At. Yoga. Period.

What I’ve learned–no rocket science here–is that’s okay. To assume I’d be good at it on the 15th day is an insult to the people who work hard at it every day. And make no mistake, when yoga’s done correctly, it can be very difficult. And I don’t mean the vinyasas. They’re physically demanding, but you can muscle through them.

It’s the parts you can’t muscle through that kick my butt. Like the halfmoom.

Sure, it looks easy on that Poses Against Humanity card, but try it. I eventually held it–more or less–on each side. But the result was less than graceful.

And that’s okay. For one thing, I’m coming off a seven-month layoff. My core is shot. For another, I never did yoga on a day-to-day basis. And that’s too bad.

When Tony Horton talked about yoga on the DVDs, he talked about loosening up all that ancient gristle in his joints and muscles. I never understood that. But I understand it now. No one will confuse my flexibility with Gumby’s (dammit!), but the differences are there. And as much as I still don’t like the everyday practice, I am glad of the results.

You’re as flexible as a pretzel stick, dammit!

So instead of feeling like someone trying to master golf, I feel like a beginner–like someone blessed to be able to do anything at all. And while the stumbles don’t excite me, I accept them. I have to. The alternative is to not go forward, and that’s no alternative at all.


Right now is about what you can do today

I can still do a vinyasa. The real deal. Start in plank, go to chaturunga, maybe throw in a push up every now and then, then go to upward dog. No knees on the matt. No cobra pose. The real deal for me (your mileage may vary and that’s perfectly okay).

Except mine was, you know, manly

I used to be able to do that as many times as Tony Horton ordered. No more. Six months from now, maybe I won’t be able to even do one. Or maybe I’ll do than I can now.

Right now, six months from now’s not important. Right now is about what I can do today. I came, I did the yoga. I feel good.

Right now is about what I can do today. It’s about me. Not about what that guy buzzing down the running trail did. It’s not about what the woman on her way into Orange Theory did.

I could have sat and felt sorry for myself for not being able to do those things, but I did what I could do. Some people can do a lot more. Some people struggle to get out of bed. But they aren’t helped and I’m not helped if I worry about what they can or can’t do.

Right now is about what I can do today. I can’t run 17 miles any more. I can’t pump out a dozen pull ups. I can’t do the mother of all our movements, jump knee tucks. I can’t do whatever torture the evil Shaun T has in mind. So what?

Jump knee tuck. The mother…

I could do yoga and I did it, to the best of my ability. You can’t do better than your best.

Life ebbs and flows. Sometimes you’ll find yourself blowing away what you’ve done before. Some days it’s a major victory just to get out of bed.

Whatever the limits are, that’s what they are. Done. End of story.

Wishing they were different, comparing your limits to what you did last year or to what others can do, that’s grounds for defeat.

Right now is about what you can do today.

Take care of today today and when tomorrow comes, worry about what you can do then.


Awww, crap. Now I’m scared.

I’ve got a nice little fitness routine. Pop in the DVD, do some work. Start running at some point. Complain about running in the heat. Do Tough Mudder. Later. Rinse. Repeat. I don’t master everything there is, but I am a master of this routine. I know what to expect and when to expect it.

Enter my friend Cathy.

“Hey,” she said. “I’m doing this Go Ruck thing where you haul around a ruck sack full of bricks all night long and I need someone to come with me. I’ll pay.”

They don’t even give you a free beer at the end of this thing.

Dammit.

I have no excuse. I can’t plead poverty. I’m supposed to be into these types of things. So, I expect that the first Friday in April, I’ll be hauling a ruck sack full of bricks around all night, having some guy yell at me while I do God-knows-what.

Nobody better bring a jelly donut to this thing.

This morning’s workout was P90X3 Eccentric Upper–pull-ups, push ups, curls, and the like. And with this event in the future, I paid more attention than usual to form. I worked harder. I tried not to sneak in a break where I normally sneak one in.

Hey, I caught you taking a mid-set break. We’re only doing ten plyometric pushups. What the hell?

So that’s good.

But P90X3 is half an hour. Even when I run long, that’s no more than two and a half hours. It’s not ten-twelve hours. The thing that scares me about this event isn’t the physical part. I’ve been yelled at before. I’ve worked hard before. I’ve been sore and wet and miserable before.

I haven’t done it for half a calendar day. Even in my first Tough Mudder, there was never a doubt that I would make it. Now, I doubt.

Now, my workouts aren’t just about the physical. After all, the hardest muscle to change is the one between your ears. It’s not about just working hard now. This Go Ruck event is about how much you really want it. And really wanting it–going all out to make a goal–that’s never been a particular strength.

That’s why I’m scared. And that’s why my workout was different this morning.

Certainty can be good. I think it will be in this case.


When you’re sore after a workout

A common complaint about working out, especially from beginners, is about being sore after a workout. Muscle achiness can turn even the most mild-mannered person into a maniacal anger monster.

I worked out two days ago and I still hurt and if I could move, I’d beat you to death.

Why are you sore? Is it good for you? And what can you do about it?

When you work out–or do anything else that’s physically demanding–you cause small tears in your muscle fibers. When those tears are repaired, your muscles become stronger and bigger. But these tears are tears; they hurt. In other words, to strengthen your muscles, you need to hurt a little.

The pain is typically worse when you first start a program, when your body isn’t used to what you’re doing. If you keep at what you’re doing, eventually, you’ll feel less soreness doing the same thing.

And that soreness is good for you–to a degree. This type of pain, typically called delayed-onset muscle soreness (or DOMS) typically sets in as early as eight hours after a workout and peak within a couple days, then gradually recedes. It’s not a stabbing pain, but a more general soreness. If your pain isn’t like that, or if it starts during your workout or lingers significantly beyond two days, you might want medical attention.

More pragmatically, if the soreness causes you to miss workouts, it’s not a good thing. You aren’t doing yourself good if you overdo it in a workout, then wait several days and start over. If that happens, back off a little, then try again–only not quite as intensely.

(If it helps, even people who work out regularly can experience this kind of soreness. It’s the newness of the activities that will cause this kind of pain. Put another way, even though I could run ten miles, when I started P90X3 again, my body was pretty sore for the first week or so as I completed my daily workouts. By the end of the second week, the soreness was much more manageable.)

If you experience this type of soreness, you can treat it with ice (heat might help at first, but some ice will speed healing), increased protein and Omega-3 consumption, Epsom salt baths, sleep, and massage. Foam rolling is an option for the massage.

Ironically, moving around–more exercise–can help, too. You don’t have to go nuts, but moderate exercise can help with the pain, as well.

Resources consulted:


You aren’t alone

I typically work out very early in the morning. It’s what works for me. Pop in the DVD and go! No one’s there with me because who likes doing military push-ups at 5 in the morning?

It’s 5 am. Time for PUSH UPS!

No one, that’s who!

But I’m not alone when I work out and neither are you.

I drove about five miles home from a workout I did this morning. It’s a semi-rainy, fully cloudy morning. And I passed two people on bikes, six people jogging, and a couple people out walking. There was a lady out running behind a stroller–not a stroller designed to run with, just a stroller. There are also countless people at the Y, or Crunch, or LA Fitness, or Orange Theory, or wherever–working out. There are people playing tennis, skiing, shooting hoop. There are people doing yoga or pilates. There are people doing P90X, Insanity, or something by Jillian Michaels.

They’re all on the same team as you. They’re all going after the same general goals as you. They’re all getting out and doing the hard work it takes to improve their lives.

Just like you.

When I was running a couple summers ago, I’d get to the farthest part of the run, the part with no trees and the gradual uphill to the end ahead of me, and I was discouraged because I was all alone. That was wrong.

Other people run when it’s hot, too. I’ve run when it’s 19 degrees outside (it was wonderful). A friend did outside yoga the other night when the temperature was in the forties. I spoke to someone this morning who did an outside boot camp one day this week when it was in the upper thirties.

They weren’t alone either.

And neither are you.

Every single person who lifts a weight or runs a mile or does a vinyasa is on the same team as you. Their specific steps might be different, but their overall goal is the same.

You aren’t alone. Don’t get discouraged when it feels like you are.

It’s a lie designed to keep you in your safe zone and wear you down. But the vast majority of people doing the same or similar work as you would give you props for putting the time in.

Nice. Freaking. Job!


Redefining hardcore

I did the Color Run this weekend–it markets itself as “the happiest 5K in the world.” A month ago, I did an event that markets itself as “probably the toughest event on the planet.”

 

As we were nearing start time at the Color Run, I started my pre-event getting-ready process. Usually, there’s some introspection, some quiet time as find the motivation I need for the gut-check ahead.

At the Color Run, they were doing Zumba.

Zumba? What the hell? Not me. I’m hardcore.

So here’s the thing…I ran with a relatively new friend, someone who saw this as a challenge, not to make a time, but to run the thing all the way through. Someone who was pushing herself and working really hard. Someone who worked a lot harder than I did.

So I thought some more about Tough Mudder. One of the reasons I like Tough Mudder–one of the reasons I need some time to get mentally ready–is I’m never 100% sure I can do it. Some of the obstacles test my weak points–like anything that involves heights. When I say I have butterflies, it’s a phalanx of butterflies in my stomach.

And I thought about the woman I ran with today. This was a test for her. She extended herself all the way at this event. Maybe there was Zumba instead of a guy telling you how tough you were. Maybe there’s chalk instead of dumpsters of ice water.

But it doesn’t make the event any less hardcore.

It’s no big deal for me to pop in a DVD and do a work out (except for Insanity). But it is a big deal for some of the people who ran or even walked 5 kilometers Saturday.

Maybe it’s not the activity that should be described as hardcore. Maybe it’s the participant.

This isn’t a race. It’s not a competition with other people. That’s why I love what Tony Horton says: Do your best and forget the rest.

It’s about what you can do. If it’s hard work for you to walk two miles and you walk two miles, then you brought it. If it’s a test for you to jog a mile and you do that, that’s not nothing; it’s everything!

Don’t look at the other person. Don’t listen that voice in your head that says, “Big deal, anyone can do what you just did.” This isn’t about anyone, it’s about you.

Be selfish in that regard.

You’re the one who was out there doing the work. If you get done and you say, “wow, that was pretty good,” or “I worked hard,” you can’t ask for anything else.

Too many people set unrealistic expectations based on what they think other people can do or what they think they ought to be able to do. Start where you are and do your best. Give yourself a break. You’re doing the work.

That’s always, always enough.

 


Finding the right workout

As previously mentioned, I work very early in the morning by popping in the DVD, pushing play and letting a Beachbody trainer kick my butt. It’s what I can maintain. It’s what works for me.

There are no excuses. I can’t get up and say “Oh, it’s cold,” or “It’s too hot,” or “It’s raining,” because it’s none of those things in the room where I work out.

A friend of mine borrowed some of the DVDs and said, “You know, I could probably do this, but I don’t like to work out alone.”

And that’s fine. I happen to like Beachbody. I believe in their products. I’ve been able to use them to change my life. And they work for me.

But if you want to be successful, you have to find out what works for you.

I did a free sample workout for a place called Camp Gladiator this morning. Several of the people knew each other and there was a camaraderie among them. After all, when you get up and get in the car for a work out that starts at 5:30 am–and it’s about 40 degrees out–there’s a certain amount of us against the world. It’s a very social workout, which is nice for a lot of people. (If you like that kind of workout, check their webpage.)

The most important part of working out is working out. A work out you won’t stick with can be worse than no work out at all if you beat yourself up about it.

If you try one type of workout and it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you’re lazy or worthless. It means that wasn’t right for you. Try something else. Try doing something with people, like a boot camp. If you aren’t comfortable with people, maybe you’d like the DVDs, or maybe just going to the gym and working out on your own. Maybe running’s your thing. Or biking. Or yoga.

Yoga. It’s so beautiful. Except when I do it.

Maybe the reason you hang clothes on the treadmill is because walking on it is boring; maybe it’s not because you’re a fat lazy slug.

Give yourself a break and keep looking.


Skinny bitches, stick-figure Barbie dolls, and perfect bodies from the bottom to the top

So here’s Meghan Trainor, a relatively attractive 20-year-old, who caught lightning in a bottle comparing body types to musical terms.

In case you, like me, are clueless about pop culture, this cute little diddy is about how if you’re a girl, every inch of you is perfect from your bottom to your top. No matter what.

Unless, of course you’re a skinny bitch (referenced in the lyrics) or a stick-figure silicone Barbie doll. Those things are bad, you see. Mostly because Meghan’s mom told her that boys like a little more booty to hold at night. (Because this is smokin’ hot and not at all freakish.)

B-I-T-C-H.

So basically, it’s okay to be…curvy–but only in the right places–because it makes boys want to have sex with you. Full disclosure: as a former boy, I can safely say curviness isn’t required. The great philosopher Toby Ziegler was right about them…us.

Show the average teenage boy a lug wrench and his mind will turn to thoughts of lust.

Why would you base your approach to your body on the perceived preference of someone who can be distracted by thoughts of a lug wrench?

Wait a minute…you, a middle-aged dad, are cranky because of lyrics in a pop song? Here’s a link to the dictionary definition of irony. Most people got over this months ago. And I’m not on your lawn!

All well-made points. But so are these:

You don’t need to be a size-zero to be acceptable. That’s stupid. And yes, it’s foolish that plus-size is getting smaller all the time. And that women often pay more for it.  (Possible connection: the lower the number associated with plus size, the more clothes they can charge higher prices for.)

In fairness, Calvin Klein never called this model plus-size. But she wears plus-size sizes.

It’s even getting political, as the reaction to school lunch menus shows. (For the record, the quality of school lunches varies widely. Some of them seem to be pretty innovative to me. I mean, black bean and quinoa quesadilla? Sweet potato fries? Chili with cornbread and Italian roasted cauliflower? Seasoned black beans? Sign me up. Sounds better than the mushy vegetable medley we got when I was a kid.)

It has never been easier to exercise than now.  No matter what you like, there’s a fitness option available for you, from P90X to walking to Zumba. And it’s never been easier to eat right* than it is right now, either. Quinoa doesn’t have to be that yicky stuff.

Why not be okay with yourself because you have a plan and you’re working to that plan–to your plan? Why not learn that if you work at something, you’ll get results, whether that’s fitness or a sport or healthy eating or just going out and finding something fun to do?

Not every body is perfect. Some are unhealthy, whether they belong to overweight people or skinny bitches. Pretending that no matter what you do, it’s perfect doesn’t solve anything.

*–My diet is periodically atrocious, so yes, I am a giant (pun intended, get it?) hypocrite on this point.