An inner athlete's manifesto.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Runner's Perspective--Thank You, NYC 2013

After Sandy and Boston, I’d say that most New Yorkers running the NYC Marathon on Sunday were, like me, a little unsure of what to expect on Marathon Day. After re-watching one of my favorite documentaries, Run for Your Life a few days before the race, I wondered if the Marathon would return to what Fred Lebow and the original Road Runners had intended the event to be—a great day for spectators and runners alike, but also one that brought New Yorkers together and showcased the tough spirit it takes to make it in this city. My biggest fear was that the crowds would not be as thick as they had in prior years, that people would dismiss the race as flippantly as a Knicks game before Lin-mania, or before the Brooklyn Nets came onto the scene.

Thank you, New York, for proving me wrong.

As Sunday came closer, I felt excitement seeping in from people surrounding me, almost as though they were slapping me in the face with enthusiasm: “You’re running the Marathon!?! When do you start? What’s your number? What are you wearing? Where should I watch you? How can I track you?” It was almost hard for me to process at first. They were more elated than I was feeling; their eagerness to propel me through 26.2 miles with affirmation after such a tough year made me feel like a humbled rock star coming out of retirement to play one hit in front of adoring fans before going back to a normal life on a Monday. It was inspiring.

When we sludged off the Verrazono in frozen droves, we saw them—the spectators. Thin at first, but steadily growing as my Green line joined with Blue and Yellow, there they were: the little kids bundled up in jackets waiting for high-fives, the beer signs, the occasional, oversized balloon, and the yelling and cheering—just like it was when I ran NYC in 2010 for the first time. Around mile 9, tears came to my eyes as we passed a church right by St. James Street in Brooklyn—a huge choir was singing outside on the church steps. A rooftop party in Williamsburg blasted Bon Jovi, a high school band played Gonna Fly Now from Rocky.

I crossed the Pulaski into my home-boro, Queens, and again was pleasantly surprised. The small stretch between Brooklyn and the Queensboro Bridge had tame crowds in prior years. Not this year. Queens was out in full force for that small stretch of miles 13 and 14. After seeing two of my friends, I proudly crossed Ed Koch’s bridge with a little extra oomph and gave a quick, mental nod to Simon and Garfunkel (this is how your mind works after a few hours of running—random references are key to avoiding pain and boredom). A group of girls next to my buddy and I started singing “I Think We’re Alone Now” to get up and over the bridge, and other boisterous runners started to cheer themselves/us for morale, their shouts echoed across the lower level as we passed Roosevelt Island.

But the real test for me was the Bronx. After crumbling to NYC’s most-northern boro in 2010 and barely hobbling over the finish line, I knew this was where mentally and physically, I would start to break down. My friend put on her headphones at this point, and it was like going through the gauntlet,  each runner for one’s self, just about two miles of purgatory when your body decides if you must give up and walk, or if you can keep jogging in a slight running form for the rest of the race. As one sign put it, the Bronx is “the WALL.”

I only made it thanks to a group of street rappers a little after mile 20, asking me to “Put [my] hands up!” I pumped my arm in the air as I ran past them, probably with no rhythm what-so-ever, but I needed that little pump. At that point, I knew I was going to make it. I thought, “Angie, you got this.”

NYC—we got this.

Angie Knudson is a staff writer and personal trainer for NYC's The L Trainer She finally took off her warm, orange poncho and plans on making goulash for dinner tonight. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tuesday Tip--How to Turn October into "Goal-tober"

Because setting kickass goals is what I excel at, people.

Today marks the one month and three day countdown to the ING NYC Marathon, and for me, that means starting a month of sobriety so that I can run the race at my optimum performance. I'm okay with it--I actually think pumpkin beer tastes like battery acid with cinnamon. I'll hold out for the porters and stouts come November.

You don't have to promise yourself a "Sobe-tober", as I am doing, but October is actually a terrific month to do something to pave way for the holiday season. Here's why:

1. October can be a short month. It's okay to end whatever goal you pick on Halloween--in fact, I encourage it. If you start your goal tomorrow, you will still have 29 days of being awesome, and that is awesome enough.

2. Because it is impossible to set healthy goals in November and December...why not make October your golden month? This way, whatever happens from Thanksgiving through New Years is fair game because you were a little more strict with yourself  this month.

3.  Here's hoping that whatever healthy thing you choose to do can carry into as much of the holiday season as possible. October can set you up for success by helping you build healthy habits that even if you only continue for a few days into November, a few days here and there is better than nothing.

4. Literally speaking, October is a great month for assonance and alliteration, which makes goal setting easier. Why not have a "Veg-tober", a "Fit-tober", a "Bike-tober" get the idea. Any word with a hard "c" or "k" sound, a hard consonant sound, or any "o" sound just fits nicely into the place of "oct". You cannot do this with all months as smoothly as October, and you definitely can't do it with, say, March. (No-Meat-March is really the only good one).

Now that you have the reasons why to have your own Goal-tober, here's a few strategies for picking a goal that is doable and reasonable:

1. Pick something small. Even if your goal is to have Meatless Monday every Monday in October (which you can STILL do!), there is no goal too small. Small goals=reachable goals. Reachable goals lead to greater confidence.

2. Pick something that is not a pain in the ass to do. If you cannot get up early if your life depended on it and your building was on fire, then setting a goal of making a 6:30am spin class two days a week is not going to work. But you could research and find a class or two that you could make two nights a week.

3. Try to ADD something, as opposed to taking away. In today's society, we want more, more, more. Since that message is being drilled into our skulls constantly through social media, advertising, etc., word your goal with this in mind, and word it carefully. For example, instead of telling myself "no booze", I am telling myself that I want more tea, more water, more tart cherry juice, and more room for ice cream.

4. Remember the real benefits of your goal, rather than the struggle. If your goal is to find twenty minutes a day in your busy schedule to work out, and you're finding it to be a big hassle, take a step back and think of why you're really doing this for yourself. Remember that twenty minutes is going to help you sleep better at night so you don't waste time tossing and turning in the sack It will also relieve stress, which will help you make clearer decisions. It will also boost your metabolism, your confidence, etc. Fitting in 20 minutes a day, no matter how jam packed your day is, also makes you better at (drum roll)...time management! Yeehaw!

Good luck with your own "Goal-tobers", everyone, and below are just a few sample goals for the month.

Sample Goals:
Meatless Mondays
Stretch before bed every day (google 5 min stretch routines)
Add-in a healthy snack in place of 3pm coffee (almonds, yogurt, fruit, etc.)
A small, "Monday-Friday" goal (so you can have the weekend "off")
Four weeks, four different small goals (more veggies one week, more fruits next week, more activity third week, more sleep fourth week)
Cook something at home at least three nights a week
Pack a lunch three times a week
Switch up your normal exercise routine once a week
Invite a buddy to try something new--like rock climbing--once a week (use those groupons!)
Ten pushups every day
One minute of planking every day
Jumping jacks during commercials when watching your favorite sitcom
One night no TV and swapped with the gym/yoga/or boardgames (mental fitness is important, too!)
Dance while getting ready every day
Find a way to eat kale\
Eat seasonal veggies twice a week (squash, mushrooms, etc.)
Cook something with quinea once a week and use the leftovers as a snack
Drink a gallon of water each day
Walk on your lunchbreak
Swap one starbucks trip for a quick power walk
Get off your ass and volunteer! (mental fitness)
Swap your bagel for oatmeal
Eat breakfast
Find a healthier late night snack
Swap your potato chips for popcorn

etc,etc, etc.