Monday, January 24, 2011

Just what I kneaded

A few things:

1.) It's cold.  Too cold to run? For me, yes.  I'm good with anything above 20 degrees, but when the temps dip below two-zero, you can bet my ass will be pounding the rubber on a treadmill.
2.) Treadmill running almost makes me want to throw on 2 pairs of running pants and every other piece of running attire I own and brave the frigid Northeast air just so I don't have to RUN ON THE DARN TREADMILL.
3.) Bought the Brooks Ghost, the first neutral shoe I've worn in awhile.  I'm thinking I can flounder between very mild stability and a neutral shoe.  I just need something with cushion.  These apparitions may be a winner.
4.) All my treadmill running + new shoes + an excessively difficult weight-lifting session + a night of drinking and dancing in very poor (but cute) shoes left me in pain.  While my hangover was cured with gatorade and some bad reality T.V., my stiff neck and back remained.  So I got a massage.

For the past few years, I've been going to the chiropractor regularly.  My neck and upper back can get excessively tense.  This might be due to the fact that my feet overpronate like none other and sometimes, my alignment can get out of whack.  Or maybe I should blame this on the few minor car accidents I've been in (don't worry, I don't even own a car anymore).  Whatever the case, the combination of chiropractic care and massage has worked wonders.

Unfortunately, my chiropractor up and closed and I almost cried, but then thought, "Nah, I don't need to get cracked/rubbed down every few, I'll save money!"

That lasted 2 weeks.  Today, I broke down and sought out a masseuse, who ironically also works for a chiropractor and gave me his information.  It was fate. 

So while my upper extremities are still very tight, I at least have some relief.  A few days of yoga and low mileage should get me back into the swing of things.  And hopefully by that time, the temperature will reach above freezing.

What remedies do you find work for excessively sore/tight muscles?

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Ruin is the road to transformation"

Yes, I chose to title this post based on a quote I heard in the sappy movie, "Eat, Pray, Love."  Some Saturday nights are best spent in the comfort of one's own studio apartment ordering movies and drinking red wine.

While there have been numerous times where my life has felt as if it were in "ruins," the one thing that has always helped me transform into something greater is running.  Aside from all the stringent training that can sometimes be overbearing, running gives me a certain balance.  Problems don't seem as impudent after a run.  My head becomes clearer, my feet become lighter, and all of the day's worries are forgotten, even if only for the time it takes me to run 5 miles. 

This is not to say that running cures all the ruin in one's life; however, it can transform you in ways that no amount of therapy or prescription drugs can.  Plus, the word "run" is in the word, "ruin," which proves my point entirely...

While I'm transforming my body into pre-marathon training mode, my weekly mileage continues to increase.  Here are this week's stats:

Julia Roberts makes yoga look so easy...
Monday: 3.5 miles on the treadmill, average about 8:00 pace; weights class for one hour.  My normal instructor sprained his ankle, so we had a substitute for my total body conditioning class.  It was still a great workout, but he repeated the same circuit three times, and I got bored.
Tuesday: Did 45 minutes of yoga.  I always feel great afterwards, but I still hate yoga.  I've thought about going to a "real" class, but at $15 a session, it's hard to justify the money when I can do it free at home.  Or at my gym...ughhh...thinking about yoga makes me tired.

Wednesday: A snow day from work! Got outside for a 4 mile run, then went and bought some of my favorite Balega running socks (which now come in cute colors!)

Thursday: Beer runners! Having missed my bus, I sprinted like a bat-out-of-hell to the opposite end of town, caught another bus and barely made it in time to meet some friends.  Overall, a bitter cold 8 miles.  However, the delish beer at the bar afterwards made up for all my hard work. 

Friday: DAY OFF. 

Saturday: Took my new Nike Lunar Elites out for 6 miles.  Not a great shoe, and a rather painful run at a 7:50 pace.

Sunday: Another day of yoga...30 minutes was all I could get through.  Seriously, does anyone have tips on how to enjoy yoga?  I desperately need to do limbs are very un-Gumby-like.

Week Total: 21.5 miles

I'd like to get a base of 30 miles before I begin marathon training in early March.  I'm still debating on whether to run 3 days a week or 4 days during my training.  Which marathon programs have you used and found successful? 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Shoe Review: Nike Lunar Elite

When it comes to food, I've done away with my childhood pickiness and embraced my adventurous side.  However, when it comes to running shoes, I'm the finicky kid who wants chicken nuggets and fries every night of the week. 

Finding a running shoe that works has always been a struggle for me.  Being in corrective shoes when I was younger probably didn't help matters much.  After thousands of dollars spent on running shoes and orthotics, I finally found my "sole" mate: The Nike Zoom Elite.  Not only did this shoe hug my foot in all the right places, but it molded well with my orthotic and provided the exact amount of support my effed-up legs needed. 

But of course, some relationships can't last forever.  So last winter, when Nike decided to give the Zoom Elite a total body makeover, I was devastated.  Although we had many great memories together, our future was looking grim.  I tried to hang on as long as I could, hoarding old models of the Zoom Elite from shady shoe websites.  But my efforts were in vain and soon, I was back on the market again, trying to find another match. 

Although I was skeptical, I decided to give the new version of my old shoe, the Nike Lunar Elites, a try.  While the structure has, in my opinion, been destroyed (flat sole, more room in the toe box), the sales people at my local running specialty store said it still felt like an Elite, just lighter.  Yeah, right.  So, I bought a pair.  And today, I ran in them. 

Nike Lunar Elites.  I wanted to love them...
No bueno.  While I love the color and overall aesthetics, the Lunars are firm.  I've always preferred a soft shoe, so this was a definite disappointment.  My legs were uncharacteristically hurting after mile three.  I'm not sure why this is, as the support of the Lunar does seem to mimic that of the former version.  However, the softness issue is a huge dealbreaker for me, so it's safe to say that these hot little numbers will only be brought out for really short runs, and perhaps some speed workouts. 

So, the search for my perfect shoe continues.  Marathon training begins the first week in March, so I have some time to find "the one."  I also have a very old pair of Elites that I'm wearing until the soles fall off, and a pair of Brooks Ravennas that are just "okay."  Feel free to recommend your favorites!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A balancing act

Back in college, and quite frankly, even a few years after college, I used to think that I needed to run seven days a week.  This was going to make me faster, stronger, and less stressed.  Truth is - it did none of those things.  Instead, I became frustrated whenever I had to think about when I was going to get a workout in.  How many miles?  Tempo run or track workout?  Trail run or road?  Which race should I run?  It was exhausting, not to mention, draining my pocketbook of what little cash I possessed. 

So, I quit took a hiatus.  I never quit - ever.  But I listened to my body telling me that a break was in order.  I didn't race for about two years. While I still ran, I did so when I wanted.  If I felt like going fast, I went fast.  If I wanted to leisurely run/gossip with a friend, I did.  I tried out classes at my gym, volunteered at races, and when I was ready, began training again. 

Since my running epiphany, I've learned that my old training regimen is better off left in the past.  Today, I choose "quality over quantity" when I devise my workout plans.  In order to keep me balanced (literally and figuratively), I add in a few cross-training days and at minimum, one rest day.  Keeping this mindset while planning the training schedule for my next marathon (details to come) makes me ecstatic instead of frustrated. 

My "friends" Shiraz, Chianti and Malbec

And since the weather in Philly isn't exactly spectacular right now, there's no need to trek out in 6 inches of snow for a run/shuffle; instead, I can safely do yoga in my apartment and hope the people in the brownstone across the street aren't looking across the way into my window and watching my ass fall over. 

While cross-training and yoga (mainly yoga) will never be as enjoyable as a brisk run, at least I have some "friends" waiting for me after my workout. 

What are some tricks you use to keep your training "balanced?" 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Snow and ass-toning

This morning, while most people in Philly were snuggled under the warm confines of their covers, I braved the elements and headed out for a run.  I'd been wanting to meet up with Philly Runners for awhile, but would usually find some excuse not to go. 

That was the old me.  The 2011 version is more diligent about her running as opposed to her Friday night happy houring. 

My stoop.  Getting out the door is the first step!

Despite all the snow on the ground and falling from the sky, there were quite a few crazies in attendance.  I met up with two friends and we shuffled our way along the 8.5 mile loop.  Even the icicles forming on our eyelashes couldn't deter our motivation.  We spent the first half periodically talking and taking water breaks under bridges, not only to rehydrate with our icy-laced bottled water, but more so, to wipe our wet/windburned faces. 

The second half of the loop was difficult.  We remained mainly silent, except to occasionally state how much our asses/thighs hurt.  Running in snow is no joke!  However, I couldn't help but think how awesome my keister would look in jeans after all of this snow-toning. 

We completed the loop in 1 hour and 16 minutes, which included water breaks and the time we slowed down because a snow plow blasted us with black/brown snow.  All in all, an 8:56 pace is definitely acceptable on a day like today. When living in a place like Philly, with oftentimes unbearable winter and summer weather conditions, one comes to embrace the fact that not all runs will be quality.  However, with a few dedicated running buddies, they can most certainly be enjoyable!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Barbells and Buckeyes

Just the necessities...
I hate the first week in January at the gym.  Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that many people have made the resolution to get in shape, and I hope at least half of them stick to it.  What I don't like is when the majority of the treadmills are occupied by latte-sipping/cell phone talking women in velor jumpsuits.  Yes, I actually go to the gym to break a sweat  drench myself in perspiration while I begrudgingly pound the rubber.  My shorts rarely match my shirt and the lovely white towel my gym lets me use is caked with the day's make-up when I'm through with it. 

Despite an over abundance of gym wannabies crowding the machines, I was still able to snag a spot in my favorite weight-lifting class.  Although it was a tight fit and despite smashing my pinky finger with the weight from the girl's barbell behind me, I got my ass handed to me for a good hour.  And it felt awesome. 

Some sad-looking Buckeyes
When I take this class regularly (2 times a week), I definitely feel much stronger when I run.  Last fall, when I was training for the Columbus Marathon, I lifted weights on my own (i.e. did P90X whenever I felt the urge, which wasn't very often).  And I paid for it come race day.  Not only did I run my worst time since my marathon debut (because really, the first marathon will always be the slowest), but I felt weak during the race.  Is it just me, or are real-life trainers more effective than any DVD or self-regimented exercise programs? 

After my class, I whipped up a batch of buckeyes in preparation for the Sugar Bowl tomorrow.  Admittedly, this was almost more difficult than doing 100 tricep kickbacks.  Perhaps I should stick to barbells and leave the Buckeyes to Coach Tressel.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Running in the new year

New Year's resolutions are like jeggings - a good idea in theory, but after awhile, they lose their luster.  Unless you're a runner.

Pre-race mugshot

Although I've never been one to resolude anything on January 1st, beginning 2011 with a positive outlook seemed like something I could latch onto - especially if it involved a frosty midnight run.  So when a friend suggested ringing in the new year running a 5k instead of kissing random strangers, I leaped at the opportunity and thought the following:

Running + friends + new year + open bar = AWESOMENESS!

"Cheers!" to new beginnings
 And awesome it was.  At the stroke of midnight, I "ran" in the new year with a smile, ecstatic that I was entering 2011 doing something I've loved for most of my life.  As I lapped around the Link, it occurred to me that perhaps resolutions are really enjoyable goals that people set out to achieve instead of bothersome tasks on a "To do" list.

As I blazed into the finish shoot, running 22 minutes and some change, I left 2010 in the dust and had a silent epiphany: A new year means letting go, but also, looking forward. 

Champagne in hand, I toasted to a new year and made a resolution to make 2011 the best running year of my life.  As David Gray suggests, it's  "A new day at midnight."  Indeed, it is.