Sunday, March 30, 2014

Week 14: 5K Lessons

Today I ran my first 5K.  First of all, I’m happy to announce that I finished with no problem at all, and did it in under 45 minutes.  Secondly, I learned a few things today:

  1. Cold weather really does cease to affect me once I start running.

  1. I need to drink as much water as I think I’ll need to be hydrated, and then drink even more.  I was pretty dry by the time I hit the one relief station they had on the 5K course.  I've never downed 12 ounces of water so fast in my life!!  (I suspect this lesson will be even more important when summer gets here!)

  1. Running on a treadmill is NOTHING like running outside.  There’s something about having a wide open sky above you and real ground below that is far more appealing than a treadmill.  I found it was much easier on my joints, too, and since I have mild arthritis in my right ankle, that’s a big deal.

  1. I was so NOT ready for the hills.  I did a fair amount of walking today, and most of it was on the hills.  Thankfully, Spring seems to be here to stay, and once the park trails completely de-ice and dry up a bit, I’ll be out there running on those hills as much as possible so I can get used to those suckers!  I have every intention of continuing my training, and now I have a new short-term goal: To run a 5K with no walking breaks at all.  Once I’ve done that, I’ll be moving on to a 10K race.

  1. I’m capable of running much faster than I thought.  My average time per mile was a full two minutes less than my training miles.

  1. And here is what I think is the most important lesson from today:   I can accomplish just about anything if I believe in myself and am willing to do the required work.  Looking back on the past few months, I don’t think I actually believed that I could complete a 5K when I first started training.  Fortunately, I have good friends that frequently gave me words of encouragement, and after a while I really did start to believe that I could do it.  Now I know I can.  And running this race has just made me want to run more.  I’m more excited about my long-term marathon goal than I was before I ran this 5K--it seems more possible now than ever.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Week 13: Run

So, this weekend I’ll be running a 5K.

Yup, I really did just write that.  No one is more astonished than me.  If you had asked me a year ago if I could run a 5K I would have looked at you like you were nuts.  Me?  Run a 5K?  Seriously?  I weighed 344 pounds and could barely walk around the block, much less run anywhere.  Running was something that other people did, and not something that I would have even contemplated.  

And then a few months ago I had this moment.  I was on my daily walk and suddenly I had this gut feeling that the walking was no longer enough, that I wanted to run.  So I did.  I didn’t run for very long--four or five minutes at the most--but it felt good.  So I started to run for a few minutes every time I went for a walk.  And then two weeks later I was in the midst of one of those short running intervals when I suddenly said out loud “Someday, I want to run a marathon.”  

Wait, what???  Of course that was my inner dialogue trying to convince me it was a crazy idea.  You’ve got to be kidding.  You can’t run a marathon!  You can’t even run for more than four minutes at a time, and even that is pushing it!  And had it been a year ago, I would have listened to that voice.  But I’m not the same person I was then, and the idea just kept turning over and over in my head, and pretty soon the idea of running a marathon overshadowed that inner voice, and I knew that I wasn’t going to let that new dream go.

So, here I am, less than a week away from my first 5K.  I say “first” because I know I won’t be able to run that marathon right away.  It’s going to take a lot of training and several smaller 5 and 10 kilometer races and probably a few half marathons before I go for the big one.  But I’ve started to take the steps I need to reach that final race, and you can bet that I will enjoy every small victory between now and then.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Week 12: Setbacks

It started last Wednesday with a ginger cookie recipe.  It seemed harmless enough.  I've made cookies before and had one or two and been able to easily ignore the rest.  So I made the cookies.  I couldn't stop with just one or two.  I ended up eating a dozen of them before the weekend arrived.  They were like crack cocaine, and by the time I weighed in on Sunday morning I was already feeling less than happy with myself, and the one pound gain did nothing to help.  

After the weigh in came the Sunday morning workout, and I realized 10 minutes in that something was wrong.  I was exhausted, and was only able to finish two 4 minute running intervals before my muscles were so fatigued I couldn't continue.  I opted to walk for the rest of my workout, and by the time I was finished my stomach was very upset and my muscles had started to ache.  It was noon when I realized I was suffering from all the classic symptoms of food poisoning.  (I narrowed it down to two culprits in my fridge, and both have been disposed of.)  Fortunately, it was not what I would call a “serious” case, but I was still down for the count.  

I spent the rest of Sunday and most of Monday in bed.  This morning I attempted to run intervals again and wasn't even able to make it through one, so I opted for speed walking again, even though I was only able to manage 30 minutes.  At this point I am extremely frustrated and starting to feel anxious.  I’m running my first 5K in less than two weeks and because of this illness I’ve lost two training days.  I know in the grand scheme of things two days is probably not much, but it’s making me anxious, none the less.

So, yeah, this week as been a week of setbacks, both dietary and fitness.  But I’m going to overcome these setbacks.  That ginger cookie recipe has been relegated to the dark depths of the nearest trash can.  The food poisoning symptoms are much milder than they were even 12 hours ago, which means it’s likely I’ll be able to run a good portion of my scheduled intervals tomorrow.  

And most importantly?  Giving up never even crossed my mind.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Week 11: Chip

One of the questions I get asked a lot when discussing my fitness routine is a question of motivation.  People want to know how it is I get up early five days a week to go to the gym and not give in to the urge to go back to sleep.  I think they’re expecting some very elaborate answer, so I often get a blank stare when I reply with “I owe a lot to Chip.”  At that point I have to explain that Chip is the name I gave my FitBit One fitness tracker.  I ended up giving it a name because anything that can get me off the couch and keep me on a regular exercise schedule deserves respect . . . and a name.

So Chip is a pretty amazing piece of technology.  It tracks steps, mileage, flights of stairs, calories burned, and will even record your sleep patterns.  You can set your own goals for how many steps and/or flights of stairs you want to take on any given day, and it is all tracked on your FitBit web account.  This makes tracking exercise ridiculously easy, and when it’s easy, I’m more likely to keep going.

But it’s more than just convenience.  Chip plays on my obsessive streak.  Just two days after purchasing Chip my internal dialogue started saying things like “You did three miles yesterday.  I’ll bet you can do four today!” or “You’ve got nine flights of stairs in, you might as well make it ten!” or “You’ve got less than 500 steps to reach your daily 10K goal.  Why don’t you get up and walk around the living room for those last 500?”  I can never quite let it go when I’m THAT close to reaching my goal, or close to breaking a past daily step record.  I have to reach that goal or it kind of drives me nuts.  

Of course Chip is not my only source of motivation.  There’s the joy of getting into smaller size clothing or that feeling of accomplishment I get when I’ve run a faster mile, but on a lot of days it really is Chip that drives me forward.  Seeing those numbers on a daily basis inspires me to challenge myself and do better.  

(If you want to know more about the FitBit, visit their website here.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Week 10: Journey

“Maybe stop trying so hard to find shortcuts to “hack” your life.  The best things are hard.  Invest in the journey.  Just sayin’.”  --Rich Roll


Last week I posted what I believe are the “secrets” to my fitness success, but I still have moments of disbelief that I’ve come as far as I have.  As I’ve stated before, I’ve attempted this journey numerous times and ended up failing every single time.  However, there is something different this time around, but up until I read a post on Rich Roll’s blog, I couldn’t quite figure out what that “something” was.  Reading “Why You Should Stop Lifehacking and Invest In the Journey” gave me sudden insight, and now I know why this journey is turning out to be different than all the others:  this time I’m more focused on the experiences along the way rather than the final goal.

The first time I tried to seriously lose weight I was in middle school, the gimmick that time around was protien shakes in the morning and “sensible meals” in the afternoon and evening.  In high school it was an expensive weight loss plan that required plan meals and weekly meetings.  In my early adulthood it was another fad diet, and then another the time after that.  I didn’t care how I did it, I just wanted the weight gone and all I ever thought about was what life was going to be like when I reached my final goal.  Had I only needed to lose ten or twenty pounds that might have been okay, but the last few times I’ve needed to lose well over one hundred.   

Can you see where this is going?  I was so focused on the destination that I wasn’t paying attention to the journey.  I wasn’t noticing the progress that I was making in the present.  I was only focusing on the fact that after months of dieting, exercise, and calorie counting I still wasn’t even halfway to my final goal.  I started to feel frustrated, and then I felt like a failure, and that little voice in my head started to tell me it was time to stop, because obviously I couldn’t make it, so why bother keep trying?  I gave up and went back to my old habits, because even if I was a failure, at least I could eat what I wanted.

I realized after reading Rich’s blog post that things are very different with me now.  I had the revelation that at some point I stopped focusing on the finish line.  That shift in focus changed my entire experience, and suddenly the journey was more important than how quickly I reached my goal.  I realize now that I am NOT a failure.  Quite the contrary, I’ve made amazing progress over the last nine months.  I’ve lost over 90 pounds.  I’m doing just as much running as I am walking.  I’ve lost six clothing sizes.  I’ve made REAL progress.  Now I can actually recognize that because this time around I am focused on the present rather than the far future.  I’m celebrating every small victory NOW, whether it be a two pound weight loss or the fact that I’m capable of running longer intervals compared to what I was running just two weeks ago.

Of course I do still care about my final weight and fitness goals.  I’m looking forward to entirely replacing my wardrobe and someday qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  But how fast I get there no longer matters to me as much as enjoying my daily progress and the important lessons I’m learning along the way.  I’ll give that final destination all the attention it deserves . . . when I arrive there, and not a moment before.