An inner athlete's manifesto.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Muse in My Feet Finds Its Way to My Brain

At last--I thought the Muse would never show up. I had forgotten how connected my body and mind can be, if I just allow things to happen naturally. With post-marathon details on the brain, sometimes having too much to write about can cause an impasse--where do I start?

Well, I decided on a cold run last week that I simply just needed to start. I let my mind go as my feet clipped through my Queens neighborhood dodging loose trash and empty garbage cans rolling in the wind. I was thinking about how my legs felt like they were going too fast for my body, and after awhile of debating whether or not that was a good thing, it seemed as though my mind started to follow suit. My brain has been working overtime ever since.

When I started this blog, I envisioned a close account of my marathon training with a growing number of followers, enough that I would continue writing about my fitness journey after the marathon and beyond. This goal was not met. I was too busy last summer juggling jobs, too busy in the fall surfing from couch-to-couch. I also envisioned a marathon time under 4:30, or near to it; this goal was shattered after Mile 22 when my enflamed left knee and ultra tight right calf caused so much pain in my body, I could barely walk the last four miles. "When I reached the Bronx, I just lost it, " I said to one of my friends afterwards. "It's okay," she said. "The Bronx has that effect on people, with or without a marathon." This made me laugh. It is not the end of the world that I didn't reach my goal, and this is not the end of this site. I will keep writing just as I will keep running. There is no shame in starting over.

So stay tuned, because more good things are on the way!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Remix Your Mile Repeat

When I was in junior high track, running ONE MILE was the LAST thing I wanted to do with my time. The mile was the distance event in track, and my coach made me do it.  I loathed every single mile I ran, I puked in the grass after my event in every track meet, and I never won. As the marathon inches closer, I decided to get serious and try some "mile repeats", as dull as they sound. In a typical mile repeat workout, you warm up, then run a mile at a pace a little faster than your usual mile pace (based on the distance for which you are specifically training). Then you recover for half-a-mile, then run a fast mile again. Repeat cycle. You are, repeating your mile (duh).

Unlike a distance workout where I think in my head, Okay, I am going to run 10 miles. I ran three already, only seven more to go, the mile repeat workout just sounds daunting and...boring. For some reason, looking at the miles individually, and (oh my!) repeating them, was just too hamster-on-a-wheel monotonous.

Welcome,  Remedy, and cue the make-over.  Let's make this workout more user-friendly on the mind for any beginner runner (or other runners who hate to repeat themselves). From now on,  catch and release your mile. Ta-da!  Catch the pace your want for your mile in whatever type of race your are training for, and think of releasing that pace (recovering) during your mile repeats. To "catch" is to gain--"release" implies you can catch it again--remember that. The release period is very important to remind yourself of what you are capable of doing. Appreciate that during this workout, you are allowed the luxury of seeing what your body can do during a "catch" phase with as much recover/release time you would like.

Never snag on numbers, whether it be distance, time, or laps. For some, getting to a point where you can run one mile comfortably is a feat in itself--just remember this--it is possible, and every workout is adjustable. Your "mile" may be two laps around a track with one lap recovery. This is nothing to sniff at--EVERYONE has to start somewhere (post on Kara Goucher coming soon--google her).  Remain committed to the workout, and you will flourish.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Very First NYC Marathon LONG Training Run of the Season Recap

Twenty. Miles. Booyah!

More recap later...must shower, ice, fuel, and sleep.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Benefits of Running a Race as a Training Run...

...and not as a race.

Yes, it can be done--you can race, and use the race as a training tool instead of a smack-down (this is especially effective if you feel you are completely unprepared for some added mileage). This was my method for the Queens Half last week, and I'll tell you how I did it.

1. Decide what the race means to you.
I decided this half definitely was NOT going to be a competitive run for me. I knew that because it was going to be so hot (and I literally melt faster than the Wicked Witch of the West in the heat) that I would not clear my usual half-marathon time. I knew it would take all of my will power just to resist quitting. When I saw this suspicious little pond around mile 10, I was ready to call it a day and jump in the grey-colored water. That's how hot it was.

2. OWN that decision, and you will come out feeling more self-confident.
I didn't feel bad running slower than usual due to my smart decision-making skills. Rather, at the end of the day, I felt pretty accomplished considering I ran three miles to the train stop an hour before the race when it was cooler. In total, I did 16.1 miles that day.

3. Plan the rest of your week's miles accordingly.
This was obviously my "long run" of the week. If I was doing a 5k, I would have made that race my "tempo run" for the week. For a 10k, I would have tried some sort of fartlek routine--keep pace with a faster runner, slow down, repeat, etc. You can adjust your training needs to any weekly race in your hood with some flexibility.

4. Don't let the race itself psych you out.
Weekly races are a great way to keep you and your training on your toes, but it can be easy to get caught up in the moment. Don't self-destruct your training plan by going too fast too soon, and, consequently, don't get yourself down if you are being passed. Remember that the race is a training tool, and the only one you need to worry about is you.

5. Turn "Race" into "Route".
Wow. Look at this gorgeous, traffic-free route they marked out for me today. That was nice of them. Ahh, no need to worry about tuckering out early--someone was kind enough to put out fuel stations for every mile I'm running! I love lime Gatorade. Look--that guy has the same shirt on as me. And so does that guy! This person in front of me has a nice pace I can match for a few miles. How motivating.
You get the idea. Inner dialogue is extremely helpful in boosting your self-confidence. Remember to use it for good and not evil.

I finished the Queens Half without a personal record, but every race after this one is going to be extremely easy. That is enough to get me psyched for my 16-20 mile training run on Sunday, and for the Bronx Half in a few weeks. The Queens Half also gave me an excuse to live off of pretzels for the next week. :)

Happy Trails!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On the Road, on the Wagon--Gettin' Scrappy

Ahhh. Decisions. Choices. Priorities. Blah, blah, blah.

I've had to make a few lifestyle changes in the past two weeks due in part to me freaking out and others urging me to "buck up".  I have about three months to do this thing, this 26.2 mile run of insanity. I am WAY behind on mileage. Time to get scrappy.

Weeding out bad habits is an important part of exercise and staying fit. At some point, we all have to ask ourselves, how bad do I want it?  

I've decided I want it pretty badly. I am giving up a few things I somewhat enjoy or am used to in order to achieve a bigger goal that I love.

I made a mental list of all my habits/pastimes and decided which ones eat up precious time (i.e. watching Ali choose some douchebag for fame on the Bachelorette) or are sucking my exercise energy right out of me (after-work drinks). I made a decision. I am scrapping those things out of my life. For the Queens Half, I have been on the wagon for almost two weeks. I was going to allow myself one post-race beer, but after that...well...I think I have to stay on the wagon until November. I bartend for a living, and I love beer, but I have to remember the goal--I am going to love finishing that marathon knowing that I kicked some major butt even more than any delicious pale ale. Even more than Kona Fire Rock. Sigh.

I also gave up the Bachelorette--I can read the re-caps on Television Without Pity. I have blogs to write, people to train, and miles to run. I need to pursue things that are going to push me forward.  Let's face it--right now, my running and writing are more important . 

If you are serious about adding fitness as a staple in your life, you MUST look at the big picture. We all have habits that are holding us back. Sure, some things we do or like aren't as threatening to our fitness goals as others. Pick and choose your battles accordingly with the goals you have in mind. I cut back on these two items specifically because a. they are a waste of time, and b. they didn't make sense.

I urge you to create your own Free Time Fulfillment Scale. It's simple; make a list of everything you do with your free time, and rate how happy you feel after you've finished each activity. If there is something on there that doesn't make you feel as great as you thought it should, get rid of it. Cut back. Scrap it. Replace it with something more fulfilling. No one ever said you have to continue watching a crappy tv show, or go out for poorly made margarita after work just because you're used to it. Be honest with yourself.

Good luck, everyone. Happy wagoning.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Heat Wave or Heat Slap: You Decide

I'm gonna go with Heat Slap. NYC has been in the high 90s and low 100s for the past five days or so, and I can't take it anymore. Nothing kills my workout like the heat + humidity combo; I'd rather run in 30 degree weather with eight layers on than try to workout in this stickyness.

But I do have the Queens Half-Marathon coming up at the end of July, and I am going to prepare to have to run in heat. Safely.

Since the heat can be deadly if you aren't smart about training in it, here are some tricks I use during sweltering summer months that get me through my workouts:

1. Pre-Workout Hydration: I can't emphasis enough how important this is, and by pre-hydrate, I mean drink up your h2o the night before your workout, especially if you're planning on being out during maximum sun exposure hours (10am-3pm). Obviously, chugging a half-gallon of water right before you workout at noon will only make you puke alongside your favorite running route. Remember, caffeine and alcohol will both dehydrate you.

2. Shoot for Sunrise: Early morning workouts are obviously the best during the summer because it is the coolest daylight time to workout in. Also, if you live in an urban area like I do, asphalt and pavement soak in heat as the day progresses. On a morning run, these surfaces have had a chance to cool overnight. Also, pollution levels are generally lower in the morning. And you have your whole day ahead of you to not worry about your workout because you already did it! Everyone wins!

3. Let's Get Real: Training your body and tricking your mind to get up that early can be a real pain. No one likes to adjust to a new workout time in the summer, especially when you spent the whole night tossing and turning in your sticky apartment because you decided to lower your Con-Ed bill and turn off the AC for the night, leaving you to fend for yourself with your bedroom fans. Start with a goal to get up early once this week, twice the next, and etc. until you feel more used to it. Use your early morning workout to your advantage and make it a long one (60 mins) so you can get your long runs in without risking heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or another sun/heat-related illness.

4. Set the Bar Low: For people like me who struggle with being the early bird, I am often the idiot running around in the park around 11am, wishing I had started four hours earlier. But take note: when I run in the heat, I listen to my body and I don't push  myself.  I always set a time limit, and on hot days, I choose a goal based on time rather than distance, and I keep that time ultra low, say 15-30 minutes. If I really need to put in more mileage, I wait until the sun goes down or take up the unfinished business with my local treadmill well after I've cooled down from the day's first workout.

5. Walking Breaks in the Heat are Definitely OKAY: More than okay--walking breaks actually prevent heart attacks. Remember, your body is working twice as hard to keep you cool--sometimes it needs your help in remembering that. Swallow your pride and take it down a notch if your body is struggling, and I highly suggest wearing a heart rate monitor. You can always pick up the pace again once your body has cooled down enough.

Hope I've helped other runners who have been jaded by July's sun so far. Thanks for joining!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Over-Worked: How to Take Care of Yourself When Your Job Holds Your Sanity Hostage

It was Day 10 of 12 straight days of work at the bar. This job can drive a person bananas, and I was about ready to lose it. Long hours on your feet and nights spent only thinking about what you might not be too tired to accomplish before the next day of work can be daunting. I was wondering, "How can I train for a marathon without proper time and rest?"

And then it hit me--REST.

Long work hours in addition to the pressure you feel when you begin a new workout program is stressful. Skipping a workout can make you feel guilty and sometimes even more sluggish. But the most important thing to remember is YOU.

I definitely forgot me last week. Even though I was somehow keeping up the bare minimum  amount of running needed to hold my last thread of sanity intact, the fact that I gave up so much "me" time for work left me feeling frustrated and angry. Running this marathon is one of the most important things in my life, and how dare I let stress and work get in the way.

We all know the importance of learning to say no, but when your work circumstances simply won't allow it, then what?

I took it to the streets. Well, the streets in Central Park. On Day 10, I decided enough is enough. I had three hours to kill before a long night shift. I used a hot, humid day to my advantage and told myself that I was going to see how far I could run for 30 minutes and not stay out in that heat another minute. I had a really good run, sans ipod, sans expectations. After a cold shower, I took my lunch and my towel to the park and relaxed in the grass before work. The next day, my body was exhausted, and I was short for time. I returned to the park with a book instead of my running shoes, and took 40-minute mental health break. After jotting down some thoughts and ideas, I started my day at work with a fresher outlook.

Some days, you will have to make a choice between your mental health and physical health. Even though any sort of exercise will boost endorphins, if your body is telling you no, a day of rest never hurt anyone. In fact, your muscles are actually taking time to repair themselves so they can work harder for you in the future. Don't forget that your body has a job it needs to do, too, and that it is smart enough to do on its own as long as you give it the proper tools (rest and nourishment). But it is up to YOU to stay mentally healthy, and if you don't take care of your mind, your body will eventually suffer. So read that book or magazine. Do a crossword. Chill out with a movie. Call a friend. Whatever you do, DON'T beat yourself up for taking a rest day. We are all only human.

Don't think about how weak you are--think of how strong you are going to be. 
Michelle (Berry) Dougherty

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Try not to hold onto the rails when you run on the treadmill--if you have to hold on to the rails to run that speed, guess what--you're not fast enough to run that setting. Your treadmill posture should mimic your outdoor/natural running posture as much as possible, so unless you run with a walker outside, slow it down and run correctly. Stand tall, keep your head up, and let your arms swing naturally with your cadence.

Step One: Put on Your Shoes (aka Pizza, then Treadmill)

As we all know, the first step to fitness is to put on your shoes and get off the couch. This is easier said than done, especially for me. And since this blog is mine, we will be talking about me quite a lot.
Today is my only day off this week, and my goal was to wake up early enough to beat possible 80-degree weather. I wanted to run in the morning--a long, scenic run in Central Park with birds chirping and cyclists whirring by--then I wanted to take the train to the beach and spend the day doing absolutely nothing.
Rain changed all that.
I have now been in my running shoes for five hours, waiting for the rain to go from a steady drizzle to a light, misty sprinkling. I can run in a light, misty sprinkling. I can even run in a downpour if it's hot and humid enough. But I will not do cold, steady drizzle.
I have done the dishes, hand-washed some bras, walked to the bank, picked out a Father's Day card, sent off some mail, and started a blog. I have made a doctor's appointment. I even had a slice of pizza (I know, I know) and a tiny salad. It's still drizzling steadily. Some of you may think I am procrastinating, and you are right. I am procrastinating because the last thing I want to do in June is hang out on the treadmill without an ipod.
I'm gonna do it anyway just to show you all I can overcome adversity. It is now 6:12PM, and I am going to the gym during rush hour (which I hate), to run on something I tolerate but do not like. I'm only doing it for the pizza today.
I'll let you all know how it goes.