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Training Program Completed!

Training Program Completed!

So I finished up that 12 week training program at Fleet Feet in Huntersville – it was awesome, excellent, and most helpful. I really enjoyed the structure of it, and the knowledge that there were people expecting me to show up was a real motivator (although I do have to cop to at least two days of failure to appear due to various health related ailments).

Last night was our last run together before our Saturday “goal race.” My goal race is the CPCC Skyline Run, which is just a 5k, but it goes for scholarships, so I love doing that one just for the support of students alone, but it’s also a really fun race to do. I plan to wear my tutu again.

So as we lined up for our last set of drills together, I thought back to my first day doing those damnable drills, and how I just knew I had gotten myself into something heavier than I could manage. The drills were easy now – or at least they weren’t the workout that they were when I began, and I felt so proud of myself for being able to stick with something to the end. I not only stuck with it until the end, but I stuck with it until I saw an improvement.

I got so much out of this experience, I really do want to sign up for another one – however, the conversation surrounding the next program made it sound pretty horrible:  all speed drills at the track, in the summer. Yeah, gonna have to think long and hard about that one. But I really did enjoy doing the drills we did, and I would love to get faster.

Community

Community

I’ve never really run with a group. I have a vague memory of attempting to be part of the cross country team while in middle school and epically failing at it, and as I’ve aged, I haven’t done any better at developing a community around me. I saw an advertisement at a specialty running shop for training groups and dismissed it out of hand. First of all, I can do this all alone, thank you very much. I don’t need to pay someone else for this. Also, I’m too slow. I’ll hold everyone back. Finally, they’ll all know each other and I won’t know anyone, and who wants to go back to high school anyway??

Look, I never said it made sense. The brain is a strange creature.

Training group cycles came and went at Fleet Feet, and I continued not to join in. Finally, I went in for a new running bra or something, and picked up a flyer. The dude behind the counter answered all my questions and before I knew it, I was seriously considering joining up. Notice I’m still not ready to commit to something as basic as a running group, or as easy. I have commitment issues apparently.

So I go to the first workout and struggle. I mean, I really, really struggle. I’m not used to running with other people, I’m not used to running at night, and I’m not used to talking about my workout. I was fully and completely outside my comfort zone. And that’s not even taking into account the discomfort inherent in running itself, right?

This was maybe two months ago (mid-January) and yesterday I got to run 8 miles with my friends in the running group. We shared our energy chews, encouraged each other, watched each others’ backs, and cheered on the unofficial mascot (Pressley is her name – she’s a doodle of some description – very tall and leggy. She could be a model).

As an aside, I believe that Straxi could perform mascot duties alongside Pressley (apparently the duties largely consist of patiently sitting and waiting while we warm up, then trotting at Joe’s side until time to stop and poop, then resuming trotting by his side) and I’m shooting for getting Straxi to the point where she can be a part of a group like this, too. Oddly enough, I seem to have passed my inability to engage with others socially on to my dog. And all she has to do to get to know someone is sniff their butt. It’s not like she has to make sparkling conversation or anything.

My dog is not a social butterfly.

I’m so excited that I was able to do this – running that far is a first for me, and running with a group is now becoming a real treat as opposed to something I actively avoid. I love running on my own with Straxi, but at the same time, having people to run with (my own pack, as it were) is awesome.

I regularly read (and listen to) Ali on the Run, and she has talked on her blog and podcast a great deal about the November Project.  I wish we had a tribe here, because I think this is something I could really get into and enjoy. Plus, the summer gets ass hot and that’s just as bad as being super cold and I always need motivation to get out there and work. I’m not going to start a tribe on my own, though. I know I don’t have the staying power to establish a set schedule like that and stick to it – having other people depend on me at work and at home is enough. I don’t want to get that sort of crap into my exercise life, too.

I feel really protective of my running, now, in a way I didn’t before. I have multiple things I’m doing to make sure that I improve my running as much as I can (I’m seeing a sports-oriented chiropractor and a nutritionist, among other things), and I am careful about cross training to avoid injury but still improve my cardio ability, blah blah blah, the same stuff we hear and read all the time. But my running seems like it’s just so much in its infancy, I’m afraid that anything I do is going to knock it off its stride, if you’ll pardon the really bad pun.

But this is about improving, which is at its core, about change – what we were yesterday is no longer enough and we want to build on it and make it even better. So I’m trying to blow on the little spark, and keep it alive, even when I have really hard runs, or runs that aren’t really that great. I have never had a bad run, now that I think about it. I think that’s a good sign.

 

Fire Extinguisher

Fire Extinguisher

tumblr_o8xrcr0DaD1u8zsmfo1_400So part of my summer vacation was intended to be work on how I can best recharge my batteries during the semester. I do a very, very bad job of self-care, I think, and am in a constant state of forgetting that if I do not do at least the bare minimum of self-care daily, I am in actuality doing a detriment to not just me but my students. I have to remember the old “put the oxygen on yourself first” adage – I can’t do for others if I am not at my prime ability.

I realized at some point over the last few weeks that I had no idea as to what self-care actually meant. Does that mean doing what you feel like doing at a particular given time? Does it mean doing stuff that doesn’t necessarily seem “fun” but that you know needs to be done? That makes it sound less like a soul-recharging task and more like, well, a Pap smear or trip to the dentist.

So I turned to Dr. Googles and looked it up (exactly what I exhort my students, my father, my son, anyone who asks me to educate them on something without having done the bare minimum of work themselves to do). I was surprised to see that self-care is a little more specific and real than I had understood previously. Before I searched, when I heard the term “self-care,” I envisioned things like long days of video gaming, maybe a hot bath, reading…essentially all the things my Type A mind considers to be “goofing off.” But those things don’t necessarily replenish my batteries in the way that I am looking for. Yes, all those things are good for me, in moderation. When I video game, I am able to release some aggression, do some creative work, and leave my day-to-day world for a bit. When I read or soak in the tub, it’s another way for me to block the “real world” for a while, which I find very important and something that I need, rather than just like. The trouble comes if I do it too much, or with non-revitalizing mediums (spending too much time on Reddit is a real problem for me, and it’s not healthy in the slightest).

So that’s how I understood self-care:  essentially having cotton candy for dinner, you know? This is wrong, wrong, wrong. Here’s how Dr. Googles explained it at the top of the search:  “In health care, self care is any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated. Some place self care on a continuum with health care providers at the opposite end to self care.”  This was singularly unhelpful for me insofar as figuring out how exactly to do this self-care business for myself. What it did do for me was help me understand that this is a more substantive thing than just “goofing off.”

I found loads of helpful writing on self-care, including the frequent exhortations to get outside, into nature, around some green stuff, and to think about and reflect on the beauty around you. This is something that I do regularly when I run (unless I’m on the treadmill, and I really dislike running on the treadmill, honestly, but when it’s hot as Satan’s testicles outside, I don’t have much of a choice). I love spending time at Fisher Farm, with Straxi, running or walking, taking pictures, or just looking at how beautiful the world is. When I’m running in town, I’m overwhelmed frequently by how fortunate I am to live in a town that is as soothing and beautiful as Davidson is. I feel so terrible for people who are not surrounded by the beauty that I am so lucky to experience, and I include that in my gratitudes every time I consider them. Just the ability to look around and see thriving nature is a boon, and being able to go outside and interact with that beauty is a recharge for me. Those folks who can’t see that beauty because of poverty or other social/class factors are poor in ways that exceed financial ways, I think – even the wealthiest of the world who are unable to appreciate what they have are included in my understanding of poverty. Of course, that’s a completely different discussion, but financial poverty is a form of violence, imo.

I recognize that I have a great deal of privilege in being able to live where I live, do what I do, and exist the way that I exist. Whatever quirks my life has and that the world tosses at me (like a bouquet or a hand grenade), I am still so incredibly fortunate.

But I seem to have wandered a bit from my discussion of self-care. I ran across this Atlantic piece, “The Internet Wants to Help You Take Care of Yourself,” and was…well, stunned, honestly, at how succinctly the author has related my own experiences with thinking about and attempting self-care.

The author, Julie Beck, opens her article by describing the self-care tag on Tumblr as being similar to coming in from the rain and being offered a towel and umbrella when you didn’t realize you were drenched. I spent some time flipping through the posts (I have very little experience with Tumblr) and gasped when I ran across the one I have featured here – it captures my own struggle here with this concept really well.

The author shares a link (I have basically bookmarked the essay, the links in the essay, and have spent some time with all of it just as I am trying to write this) in which the user is guided through a checklist of things to think about when trying to establish why she might feel bad (“You Feel Like Shit”). For someone like me, without an active group of friends (okay, okay, without any friends) upon which to call when having a shit day, this is very similar to what I remember of sitting down with Courtney and saying, “Yeah, I am having a hard time.” It’s like the internet equivalent of a cup of coffee with a friend. This is alternately cool and depressing to me. I ran through the initial part of the flow chart and was reminded to take my meds as I was doing it (Thanks InternetFriend!).

Towards the end of the article, the author discusses whether or not we really are discussing this self-care concept more, or if it’s just a trick of the eye. She writes that she believes “that there’s a growing acknowledgement of the fact that there’s little about modern society that prioritizes, encourages, or facilitates caring for yourself or treating yourself well. It’s all, ‘Buy more things!’ ‘Work harder and at any hour of the day!’ ‘Click back and forth uselessly between the same five websites and call it leisure!’” This is where my own (mis)understanding of self-care comes in. Basically, I had conflated consumption and self-care.

Self-care is a task that is intended to make me stronger, better, more capable of finding and nurturing the me I need to become. Whether I need to become that me for the purpose of being of better service to others, or just to be of better service to myself, or a little of both is immaterial. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t all try to understand who our best selves are, and to make those best selves a reality (other than the obvious ones – it’s hard to do anything outside of survive when survival is a real question). I’m finding as I research this that self-care for women can have a political and activist aspect to it as well – we aren’t encouraged to care for ourselves at all. We are, actually, encouraged to do the very opposite:  to engulf ourselves in flame, use our self as tinder and fuel for a flame intended to benefit others.

Self-care is not multi tasking.

Self-care is a radical act for a woman, especially a woman of color.

Self-care is not accessible by everyone, regardless of what we might think.

Self-care is one of the most important things we can do for other people.

Self-care is the most important thing we can do for ourselves.

Self-care is made up of both large and small actions, and is not always comfortable.

Self-care is daily gratitude, daily affirmations, and specific goals that I can reach.

I am worth the time and effort that self-care takes. I am not kindling for someone else’s warmth.

I Resolve…

I Resolve…

In the process of filling out this reflection of the past year and planning for the coming year, I discovered a list of resolutions I made after my birthday this past year. I’m sort of surprised at how well I did in keeping up with them, although (as is fairly normal) I failed on a few. But this year part of my work is going to involve treating myself more nicely, and not allowing the demands/desires (perceived or stated) of others to beat out what I want.

Of course, this requires that I actually **know** what it is that I want. This is a challenge for me, as I have spent the entirety of my life pretty much existing to please other people.

As Roger Murtaugh famously said, “I’m too old for this shit.” And yeah, I’m thinking I’ve reached the age where if I don’t stop caring what other people think about my choices, I’m going to have a bad time.

So that’s one of my resolutions, essentially. I want to know what I want, and then I want to do it (if I can – yeah, I want to be Wonder Woman, but that’s NOT in the cards, obviously, and wings would be epic, but we have to stick with the laws of physics here).

As an aside about the pictures I’ve used in this post  – I am constantly amazed that my pop culture touchstones involve women who look so different from those of today. Wonder Woman, the bug woman, none of them seem to have the super-desirable thigh gap of today. But yet I still managed to develop such an unhealthy relationship with my body and with food. What gives?

So as a result of this thinking and planning, I’m going to take my running and training more seriously. I want to accomplish more this year, both physically and with my work, and neither of those things is going to happen if I’m playing Fallout 4.

Paddling

Paddling

So I opted for Hal Higdon’s 10k novice training plan. I’m on Day 3, which is cross training, and which follows Day 1 (stretch and strength) and Day 2 (run 2.5 miles). Yep, Day 3 is definitely after those two days. Certainly.

When I got up the day after I had done the stretching and strength training, I could definitely tell that there was some stiffness and soreness. I haven’t really been doing any strength work, which I realize is a no-no when it comes to trying to extend your miles (which is my goal) and your stamina (also a goal). But I was definitely looking forward to today, and getting into the pool, for some cross training. I love to swim. I was, in various past lives, the following things: a life guard, a mermaid, a swim coach, and a fish.

Ok, maybe not the second one. Or the third. Okay, none of them. But I still love to swim. Love it. I swam on swim teams when I was younger, and had a blue ribbon, a red ribbon, a green ribbon, and a trophy, all of which I was painfully proud. I have no idea what happened to them, but I sort of suspect that they were victims of the divorce and wound up getting chucked when my dad and grandma packed up the house. My books wound up donated to the library, which in retrospect should have infuriated me, but when you are a kid, whatcha gonna do when one of your parental figures packs your books all up into the back of the station wagon and drives off with them?

Honestly, I don’t think I really understood what was happening, and told myself it was ok, since they were all “baby” books – books I had read, loved, and spent time with. I don’t remember being upset, but I still remember it happening – all those filled to the brim bookshelves, and then POW! Nothing. I don’t suppose it’s shocking that I have a house full of books now, and that if someone tried to run off with a book of mine they would be tackled and my dog would be sicced upon them (“Straxi! Trinus libri raptor!” that’s latin for “Straxi! Trip the book thief!” I would never encourage my puppy to be unnecessarily violent, although in this instance, it would be considered, certainly.)

Ok, I’ve gotten rather far afield from my intended topic: the 10k cross training. I swam today, and I didn’t just swim a bit, I swam a mile in 30 minutes. This was staggering to me, even with my memories of the time I spent in the water at the YMCA all those years ago, the pools in the apartments where I have lived, both as a kid and as an adult, and the laps I swam as I was working on my ultimately doomed Ph.D. exams.

As a kid, I swam laps until my mother said she was dizzy. I loved the feeling of effortless movement in the water – I could sort of sink into the pattern of stroke, stroke, breathe, kickkickkickkick as I did the crawl (my fave stroke, btw). I could do a flip off the wall and swim the next length without any trouble, and the next, and the next – I swam laps until I was forced to leave the pool by my mom because it was dark. Of course, I thought this ridiculous: that’s what the underwater lights were for. I never considered that Mom might have had other things to do, or she might have been bored, or that she might have been being eaten alive by mosquitos, or that she may have been tired after working all day. Nope, never crossed my mind. All I thought of was swimming another lap.

I guess I was like Chris’ dog, Rose, when it comes to tennis balls/footballs/any type of ball: put that activity on the table, and you have my attention (that’s Rose in the above picture, btw).

So I got away from swimming, obviously, and the draw of so many other things in life pulled me in: school, work, kids of my own, then various unhealthy habits. So returning to swimming, with a goal in mind, a purpose, but also with a love for the movement, the history it holds for me, and all it represents, is just an enormous opportunity for reflection and (hopefully) a little growth.

I Invoke the M Word and Training is Considered

I Invoke the M Word and Training is Considered

Straxi and I went on a lovely run Friday. Not a long run, but it was nice time spent together anyway. We walked downtown and deposited some money in the atm, and honestly, Straxi seemed very confused by all this sort of thing – all the people, cars, other dogs – she just seemed very unsettled. We usually run on the greenway, and so I can understand her difficulties, certainly. I sometimes wonder how much she trusts me to be able to navigate us home, and get us where we need to be. I think she thinks she needs to run everything, even from the opposite end of the leash.

I want to start focusing on another race – I’ve registered for the local turkey trot on Thanksgiving, which will make Thanksgiving quite fun, I think. I haven’t done a turkey trot before, and I am seriously contemplating buying one of those turkey hats to run in. Costumes are indeed allowed, and encouraged, but I’m not sure if I want to go that route yet. The turkey hat could, of course, become a regular thing for me. Who knows.

But I do want to start figuring out how to move from the distance I can go comfortably right now into longer distances – I know at a gut level what I have to do, and it’s right there in that word that starts with “c” and ends with “ably.” I’m somewhat relieved, though, to realize that the issue is less with how far I can go and more with how long the training takes every day/few days. I guess if I’m going to commit to a longer run (and duh, that’s sort of why I do this, other than, you know, that whole OMG family issues, better run thing) I need to look into some training plans.

I’ve read up on marathon training, and people always, without fail, say it’s the miles you put in leading up to it rather than the miles you run on the day of. They also say that they almost died doing it, sometimes, so there’s that, too. I would love to run a marathon, but at the moment, I can’t imagine running a 10k, or a half. But that’s my goal: ultimately a marathon, with all the steps in between. So let’s look at some of the training options for my next new experience – a 10k (I figure a 10k is a good one to train for next: it’s double what I’ve done in the past, and it’s mathematically neat and will make sense in the structuring and addition of the things on my running necklace, the magnets on the back of my car…you know, the important things).

So who’s this Hal Higdon dude?

His 10k training plan looks easy (easy in the sense that I’ve sort of upped my miles without a whole lot of fan fare to about 3 miles per run, but the runs (because of time/scheduling issues) are not regular.

Obviously this is going to have to change. Although in further digging, I find this: “In describing the amount of time it takes to run different distances in this program, I assume everybody trains at an average of 10:00 per mile.”

Please hold while I appropriately respond to this seemingly offhand comment.

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I’m a little embarrassed to say how much time I would have to cut off my running pace in order to meet that offhand time frame. Let’s just say it’s…a metric shit ton, relatively speaking.

So Higdon is clearly A Dude of Some Importance in the field of running. He’s written a many books (not as prolific as Stephen King, but seeing as how King’s oeuvre covers all manner of things that may or not exist, and Higdon is limited to…well, essentially a form of movement, we will let that one slide). He’s also obviously run a shit ton of miles, and in scads of marathons. I’m thinking that if he put those magnets on his car, it wouldn’t run due to the magnetic interference with the fuses and other mechanical stuff in the engine.

So just from a really simple google search I’ve already got a workable training schedule. The problem seems to manifest when I start to think about the time frame in which I would actually execute said training.

So the next one in my google search (after quite a few mentions of Sai Higdon – oh dear, I’m getting my author references muddled) is Runners World. That one costs money – TWO DOLLARS AND NINETY NINE CENTS to be exact, EVERY MONTH, so it’s getting kicked to the curb immediately.

Funny that, huh? I’ll entertain the thought of $140 shoes (well, honestly, more than entertain), I will pay $25 to enter a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, but suggest a training plan that asks me to pony up only a bit more than the Turkey Trot entry fee over the course of a year and my immediate response is to click away so fast you’d think midget porn had appeared on my screen. Moving on.

Next on my list to think about: the cool folks at Cool Running who gave us the Couch to 5K concept. If it weren’t for them, I don’t think I would be running today, to be honest, because I never thought I could run any substantial distance, and lo and behold after struggling through all those 60 second bits of running interspersed with walking, suddenly it’s 3 miles and I’m surprised I’m done. So what sayeth the Cool Runners?

Hmmm. First off, I’m seeing language I don’t quite know what to do with. 800m runs? Fartleks? Various paces? 4M? 5M? The education curve is too high. I’m still trying to figure out how to manage fitting all this running into a schedule that’s admittedly pretty open, when compared with that of the standard 9-5 job (which is no longer standard, is no longer 9-5, and for many is no longer the only job they have – FEEL THE BERN).

Hal’s looking a lot better just from the standpoint of ease in understanding. I’m not a novice when it comes to running, or training plans (I do know what a fartlek is, for one thing) but I figure that if it’s going to be hard going to do the actual training itself, I don’t need to struggle to translate the training plan. So Hal it is.

Another question: how do I go about upping Straxi’s miles? I guess the same way? She can hardly cross train, really, at least not with me. Although she will be doing a lot that I’m not (like a lot of jumping, sprinting, wrestling, etc.) so I guess her cross training is just of a different nature than mine, but it’s still there.

Well. So now THAT’S sorted. Oh wait…when the hell am I actually going to do this thing? Let’s think about that.

So Monday is fine: I have access to the gym, I’m off work, not a deal. Tuesdays are ok too, in that I’m home by 4ish. Wednesday is a bit of a bother, since I go in around lunch and don’t get home until 10. So ostensibly I could train before I left for the day. That makes for a very long day. Thursday is the same as Tuesday, and Friday is one class only, so…why am I wrestling with this again?