So Close…Yet So Far Away….

I am soooooo close to a 25 minute 5K. Today I ran 2.96 miles in 25 minutes…and that was after my legs turned to jelly because I forgot that squats would be difficult after a 2ish week hiatus. Oops. Also, I never run as well in the evening. This gives me great confidence that had this been on rested legs, in the morning, after a proper breakfast, I would have been fine.

Speaking of the squats, my workout today was…interesting. I feel like I am so far away from ever making progress at strength training.

First of all, I expected the gym to be completely dead because it is summer. I figured most people aren’t taking summer classes, and if you aren’t taking classes, you have to pay to use the gym, so I thought that might thin out the pool of gym-goers even more. Nope. Apparently not. I had to wait for equipment multiple times today (which like never happens).

Then, because I was doing a new workout, I had to locate all the new equipment and figure out how to use it. I’m still not sure if I’m doing “woodchops” correctly. I also could not find a bench with a proper incline for back extensions. There was a back extension machine, but I couldn’t use dumbbells to work my triceps while using it as the workout specified. I settled for switching between that machine and the tricep press machine. I hope that is sufficient. Also, with all of these new workouts, I had the problem of not knowing what an appropriate amount of weight would be, meaning that I probably totally messed up not only my form but also perhaps did even these poor excuses at the workouts half-assed in terms of effort. It will get better (I hope).

Two other small things: my workout took WAY longer than planned, and I embarrassed myself. I thought this lifting routine would be similar in length to NROL4W, and I don’t know if it is because I was confused about new moves or what, but it took like 15 extra minutes. I was glad I only had 3 miles to run afterwards – I wanted to go home and make dinner (man, it was like 6:45 when I left the gym and I was SO tempted to get fast food  but I didn’t, I guess that is a victory). Also, when I went to do lateral pulldowns, a different bar was on the pulley. I’m tall enough to reach the bar, but I’m not really tall enough to manipulate it, so I was trying to switch it out while standing on my tiptoes and turned my shoulder strangely. Some guy at the machine freaked out, probably thinking I had broken my shoulder or something (I’m really double jointed, so while it only caused me surprise and slight discomfort, I don’t know if other people COULD bend their shoulder this way – keep in mind that by really double jointed I mean I can lick my elbow). Luckily, after he calmed down, he simply offered to finish changing it for me and went back to his workout. I felt annoyed (at the gym) that I was forced to accept his help – a woman of average height (I’m 5’5″) should be able to independently use equipment!

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A New Phase of Strength Training

Today being Sunday, it was cross-training day, which meant a boring workout on the stationary bike. For the next month, though, I’m also going to add a core workout and make sure that I am foam rolling. The reasoning behind this is that  a) I should probably be doing preemptive foam rolling to prevent excessive tightness from making me take a break and b) by building core strength, I will hopefully get better balance and not cause so much tightness in my legs from trying to stabilize all the time. Today’s workout made both of my hunches very clear to me. First of all, there were areas that I did not even know were tight until I foam rolled them and experienced a ton of pain (quads). Second, I thought I had a strong core from doing a million planks and crunches, but the oblique workouts were really hard, implying that my holistic core strength is less than I imagined it was.

For now, I’m going to alternate between two core workouts and see which one I prefer, and I’ll probably stick to that. I did this one today, and thought the moves were good choices, but I was a little confused about how long/how many reps I should be doing some things for (especially the plank lift). Next week I’ll try this one. I’ve done it before, but it was a long time ago. I think I will like the simplicity of AMRAP in 45 seconds and that it will be more challenging, but I wanted to give the other a chance because it incorporates more (and different) moves. I’ll see what I think – perhaps I’ll even combine them.

Additionally, after my week hiatus from lifting (as recommended in NROL4W), I must return to it tomorrow. I looked at Stage 2 of New Rules, and I could already tell I was basically going to hate it, so I’m going to switch to an adaptation of this plan. I’ll add squats one day and deadlifts one day, and switch out some inconvenient moves for others that are more convenient, such as substituting in lateral pulldowns for chin-ups, as I don’t think I’m strong enough for a chin-up (yet!). As my mid-week run has increased to 5 miles, I will only do this 2 days a week (Monday and Friday).

I also have random good and bad news today. The good news: I start teaching for the summer tomorrow! I am very excited – I get to teach an upper level research design class all on my own! I have about half of the lectures and assignments prepped, which I think will help me since the course is very short anyway (4 weeks) and I am going to be very busy lecturing 2 hours a day, holding office hours, grading, working out, and doing fun summer things (like indulging in excessive amounts of ice cream and alcohol with my friends taking long walks with the dog while the weather is nice). The bad news: I slammed my finger in my car door and while I didn’t think I hurt it badly (it’s not really swollen or anything), I apparently cut it and it’s kind of stiff, so I’m afraid it will affect my lifting grip. We’ll just have to see.

Only someone as clumsy as me could manage to do this. Why didn’t all those years of sports give me the gift of coordination???

Oh, and other good news: despite my crazy eating this week and the fact that shark week is approaching, my weight remains in my normal bingey-water weight range (about 5 lbs up), which suggests to me it will return to normal once the sharks leave.

Foods on Fridays

Today, my post is going to be about my changing perspective on food as fuel. I meant to write it last week, but I am glad that finals week forced me to wait – I’ve had several experiences I’d like to include as I reflect on this.

When I first started losing weight, exercise was a way to get more calories to eat; now, I eat food in order to perform well while exercising. At the time, eating less even though I was exercising did not seem to affect me that much (in terms of how I physically felt). I think a lot of it had to do with how heavy I was at the time. First, because I was so large, a calorie deficit for me still meant that I got to eat a lot of food. My 1000 calorie deficit back then was the same amount of food I now eat on a daily basis for maintenance (1750 net calories – and this is with me currently eating more than MFP thinks I should). Second, my intensity of exercise was affected by my size. I burnt a lot of calories doing almost nothing: my first day on MFP I burnt FOUR HUNDRED FIFTY (!!) calories walking for an hour; yesterday, I burnt a little over 180 doing the same – in fact, yesterday’s 5 mile 7 mph run burnt about the same amount of calories as that first walk, for even more perspective. Plus, I wasn’t really working out that hard, because I couldn’t yet – I remember nearly passing out the first time I tried the 30 day shred – so there was not really much to “fuel.” Hence, exercise became largely something that I did in order to have a calorie buffer for days where I didn’t do very well at staying on target and lose weight faster.

As I continued losing weight, I kept the same mindset. It took me a long, long time to up my exercise intensity and there were actually long periods of time where I focused completely on diet rather than exercise (I was busy and it was winter). I did not start seriously running until I was near maintenance (I started running almost everyday last March and stopped trying to purposefully lose weight in June). When I first started running, I was impressed with basically any performance level, so I don’t think I would have realized if improper fueling was holding me back or not. During this time, exercise was once again something I could simply use to let myself eat pizza or drink a lot at a party or something. Plus, since I was losing weight, and had lost a lot already, eating “at maintenance” for a day because of overeating wasn’t that big of a deal – I would not gain, I simply would not lose as fast.

Then came the weird beginning of maintenance period. I was absolutely terrified of eating. I’d been down to near 1200 net calories per day, so I felt like eating the 1600 that MFP was telling me to would cause me to instantly gain back all 100 pounds. I slowly upped my calories, and to my surprise, kept losing (which is why I eventually exceeded what MFP told me to eat – I was losing weight without trying – that couldn’t be right!). My relationship with food was very confused at this time – I wasn’t really eating that much but I felt like I was because it was so much more than I had been. It felt odd to be able to go out to eat and have like, sweet potato fries, grilled chicken, and a beer and not have the whole week “ruined.” I also ended up neglecting my exercise some that summer – I had been running almost every single day (and even got Kris to do couch 2 5k with me!), but a combination of moving, my wedding, and family emergencies led to me almost never work out from like July/August to October. Then came the holidays (and some more family emergencies), where I actually gained a lot of confidence in my relationship with food because I overate “a lot” (I only thought I did, I was being quite reasonable) but still maintained. I therefore did not “need” food as fuel because I either felt like I was eating way more than I should be and therefore did not realize I needed even more or I was doing nothing to fuel.

Realizing that food was fuel began early this year, especially after I started training for my half marathon about 2 months ago. I’ve hinted at this change in perspective before. I suddenly understand why exercising was soooo difficult and I made so little progress: as long as I was using workouts to fuel my eating, I could not use eating to fuel my workouts. Now, as I push further and harder into my training, the necessity to fuel my workouts is increasing: I’m just way too hungry and miserable to do otherwise. Not only would my workouts suffer – I would physically not feel at full capacity in everyday life if I did not eat enough. An example: Tuesday, I ate about 1400 calories by the time dinner was over…after my eight miles of traversing. Oops. I just didn’t have much other food around to eat. Kris and I ran to the mall, and I still felt hungry, but I knew I had eaten  “a lot” so I thought it would just pass. I left it go too long and got lightheaded and developed a headache that stayed with me all evening, despite finding a way to ingest about 700 more calories (not all of it was beer and ice cream, ok?).

I’ve also noticed distinct changes in my habits. When I first started drinking protein shakes, I HATED that they took up more calories than weightlifting burned. Now, I can’t wait to drink them because they feel so refreshing and help to pick my energy back up after a workout. Additionally, I’ve found myself grabbing food to eat BEFORE a workout (like, in addition to my regular meals and snacks I would have eaten anyway) so that I am fueled during the workout. I’ve gone out a couple times for a run lately without eating first, and the whole time I just felt like my legs completely lacked energy. I know they must have, too, because both times I gave myself mild injuries, probably because my legs were too tired to move properly. This even happened once when I simply ate something that was not fueling enough: in an day where I was experimenting with eating no meat, I felt miserably hungry and weak all day from the lack of protein (mostly due to poor planning, I know you can eat veggie with plenty of protein).

“Overnight Oats in a Jar” did not have that much protein, despite containing both oats and peanut butter.

Plus, look at how gross this looks. I do not recommend. I barely finished my 5 mile run that day!

 

When I was home, I had to do my 9 mile run on an empty stomach, because I knew my family would feed me too much for me to eat both before and after it. Instead of being happy that I would be able to indulge at the cookout they were having later, I felt annoyed that I had to sacrifice my performance for the cookout, though (I know I could not have simply controlled myself at the cookout in order to pre-fuel my run; I’m not that well-adjusted yet). I feel about the same way today. I’m going to a workshop for work that seems to revolve around food: they are serving breakfast, lunch, providing snacks throughout the day and then taking us out for (Chicago style, please help me) pizza for dinner. I know that it will be ok because I’m running 10 (!!) miles tomorrow, but I’d much rather overeat tomorrow to fuel and recover my poor body than today.

I’m still not perfect. I think from my commentary here it is evident that I still need to develop a healthier relationship with food. Plus, I need to do a little better with proper nutrition if I really want to push my performance forward. I’ll take what progress I have made for now, though.

New Rules of Lifting for Women – The End?

Tomorrow I will officially complete my last workout of stage one of New Rules of Lifting for Women. I was going to do the last workout today, but I have to take and administer finals all afternoon and I didn’t want to feel rushed by my workout. Instead, I just took the dog for a long walk.

In general, I’m still not sure what I think of the program. I didn’t seem to make much physical progress – I took some before and afters, but other than some slightly increased arm muscle definition, I think I look pretty much the same. The only measurement that changed was my waist, and it just went from bloated from spring break back to normal. My calves possibly slimmed down a little (half an inch, but could be me measuring in a slightly different place), but I’m guessing that is from running, not lifting, as I haven’t really been doing any lifts that work the calves. I think a large reason that I did not make physical changes, though, is that I did not really push myself at first. My workouts did not feel like real workouts until the second half of the stage, when I finally got the courage to go use the real barbells. I think if I were to start over and begin the program where I’m at now, I would certainly make progress.

I also did not enjoy all of the workouts. I hated lunges because they kind of hurt my knee and it was difficult to grip the heavy dumbbells.  I hated pretty much every move that involved the dumbbells, in fact – the only thing I didn’t mind was shoulder presses because you hold the dumbbells differently. Every single workout I would DREAD having to do the parts with dumbbells. Plus, they give me really nasty calluses.

This is what my hands look like all. the. time.

There were things I LOVED, however. I loved that once I got over my fear of the weight room, that going in there and doing my workout felt not only like a good workout, but super empowering. I never feel like “yay I showed those men!” after a run, after all. I also REALLY enjoyed seeing progress on my lifts. I still think the only thing holding me back is fear. I thought, for example, that running was holding me back on my squats, which were “stuck” at 65 lbs, but after a short running break, I attempted to squat slightly more, and it went ok. So then, the next time (my last squat workout) I increased all the way up to 80 lbs, even though my legs were worn out from running! I simply had not been pushing myself as hard as I could have been (for some reason I do a lot better at pushing myself with deadlifts). I also loved the swiss ball ab workouts – even though they seemed easy in the beginning, I was able to adjust them to become harder and harder (i.e. putting weight onto ball differently to make balancing more difficult).

My overall assessment, then, is that going forward, I am going to continue to lift. There are numerous health benefits and being stronger will help prevent running injuries. I don’t think I’m going to follow NROL4W exactly, though. I would say that as a beginner, the program is great! It has a lot of great information on how to do specific lifts, what to eat, and what on earth one should be doing in the weight room in terms of a cohesive workout (rather than roaming around randomly). The experience has also given me a lot of courage, and if I wasn’t trying to stick to the program, I may never have walked up to that squat rack. Still, I hate the dumbbell workouts enough that I can see myself skipping them, and I would like to incorporate some more running-specific workouts. Plus, the next stage is something like 8 weeks and I’m going to lose access to a gym mid-June until mid-August, so I wouldn’t have time to complete the stage and I’d feel like a failure. Instead, I’ll probably do my own little thing 2-3 times a week from here on out.

The Joys of Foam Rolling and the Stationary Bike

My title is meant to be sarcastic.

As I mentioned before, my IT band is acting up (probably because I’ve done a bunch of hills all of the sudden), so I’m trying to give the poor thing some time off. Unfortunately, this means I am pretty much relegated to the stationary bike in the basement of the gym. I hate working out inside because it’s boring. At least on the treadmill I am terrified of falling the whole time which distracts me from getting too bored. On the bike, I feel like I’m just sitting there, making my legs hurt for some strange reason. I would say “at least there is a TV,” but the TV is really small, which makes it difficult to read the closed captioning. This makes me ALMOST wish I owned a bicycle to take outside, but I know I’d be too scared to ride it out there anyway – what if I got hit by a car!?!

This fear probably stems from growing up in a rural area and having slightly overprotective parents – there were few places it was possible to bike to, and even if I was biking, my parents’ rules were really silly – like make sure I am in sight of the porch at ALL TIMES and if there is a car get off the road and wait for it to pass. Then, once when I was an adult (but really out of shape, which is probably why this happened), my husband and I dug out my old bike and tried to go for a ride in the woods. I’m not kidding when I say I probably almost died! I think I rode like one mile and then pushed the bike back, crying and having to stop because it was too difficult to push the bike. This was maybe 3-4 years ago and I have not been on a real bicycle since. I wonder why? My husband, on the other hand, loves biking – he used to bike to work every day and even once did it like 2 weeks after a surgery – it is running he hates! Logically, I know that I just had such a bad experience because I was out of shape and that the cars PROBABLY won’t all hit me if I’m careful, especially as I run on those roads without getting hit by cars and can comfortably maintain a reasonable-ish pace of 15 mph on the stationary bike. I think that a major goal for me this summer will be to drag my bike out of my parents’ garage (if it even works anymore, I might have to craigslist one) and try taking short little rides on the bike path in the city where there are no cars and I’ll have Kris there to hold my hand (not literally, I don’t have good enough balance for that).

Foam rolling is also unpleasant. It hurts a lot, and I’m having trouble determining whether it is hurting in the right way. Like, yesterday, it almost felt like I was hurting my femur, rather than my muscle and connective tissues. Today, it seemed more proper. But then my leg hurt more afterwards (for like 5 minutes, it actually feels a lot better now). I have seen a lot of people complain about foam rolling, but I didn’t realize it would be this bad. It’s incredibly painful, to the point that I look like a total dork and people are probably like “wtf is that chic doing over there making those anguished faces” (though I’ve gotten over caring about this). Also, I didn’t realize that it would hurt such random parts of my leg. Like, it hurts the most when I’m rolling over the most painful part of the IT band (right at the top of the side of my knee), but also in strange places, like halfway up my thigh. I know this is because my IT band stretches all the way up to my hip, so it is probably tight in other places, too, but it is still strange to suddenly experience pain where I had none before. Even though my knee feels a lot better and I watched a ton of youtube videos, I’m still fairly certain I must be doing something wrong. This is just too weird and unpleasant.

A Non-Scale Victory: I DEADLIFTED 100 LBS!!! I know that isn’t that much, and it was only 5 reps, but getting up to triple digits was super exciting to me. Now just to suffer through a rest day tomorrow and hopefully my poor leg will recover for a nice easy 3 mile run on Wednesday. Also, I’m curious to see my squat on Wednesday after 3 whole days without running – I’ve been stuck at 65 lbs (lol) and I bet it’s because my legs never get a chance to rest. Oh, and another one: yesterday, there was a party, with pizza, and I only went over 100 calories!!!! Whoooooo!!!!

Scale Victory: I lost all the water weight from my double-Burger-Red Lobster weekend.

Physical Obstacles

Before I write anything else. Those pancakes. The ones I linked to yesterday. Go make them now.  I don’t care that it’s mid-afternoon. You seriously need to eat them. I made them for breakfast this morning and topped them with honey, butter, and cinnamon and they were super filling and amazing (and only about 100 calories per pancake)! They were the perfect fuel for my 8 mile run. I thought about taking a picture, but they didn’t look as appetizing as they were, so I was afraid I wouldn’t do them justice.

Unfortunately for my 8 mile run, it is spring, and my planned route decided to flood. I ran about halfway out and encountered ducks swimming on the bike path (I thought about stopping to take a picture, but I didn’t want to take off my gloves and dig out my phone – it was only about 30 degrees!). I should have expected this – I used to live in the apartments next to where it was flooded and had witnessed this flooding in the past (and we are having way worse flooding this year).

What it made me think of is how so many times in the past, I’ve really let physical (as well as mental) obstacles get in my way. Today I simply turned around and formulated a new route – I never even considered cutting it short (to be fair, it helped that I was super far from home anyway, but even if I hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have cut the run short).

Just 6 weeks ago, I didn’t want to start lifting because I didn’t understand how gyms work. Now, while I am still unsure of how I feel about lifting (I’m not making much aesthetic progress and I think the DOMS hinders my running), I am at least not nervous because I don’t know how to use a power rack (and I’m certainly not afraid to do it in a hot pink outfit). The same progress has occurred with racing – I’ve gone from “I can’t do a race because I don’t understand how they work” to “sign up for ALL the races!” Overall, overcoming these obstacles has really built a lot of confidence in me to try new things – if I can go lift in front of the gym bros, I can probably do a lot of other things, too. So, even if it turns out that lifting is not for me, I will appreciate what it has taught me.

Though this is not a physical obstacle, I’ve also become much more confident about talking about fitness in everyday life. I used to be scared to do so because I was so inexperienced. Now, I find myself more freely discussing my lifting routines, nutrition, and weekly mileage. I’m still a little awkward about it and I’m sure I sound like a noob, but I’m getting better.

Not all physical obstacles can be overcome through mere confidence, however. I’ve also been noticing, as I mentioned before, that my IT band seems to be acting up. Today after my run it was hurting super badly (though not really much during my run). I’m very glad tomorrow is a “rest” day (cross-training, but I’ll rest the IT band), and I think I’m going to switch my days so that I rest on Monday and work out on Tuesday next week. I don’t like to do that because I don’t have class on Monday but I do on Tuesday, but I really don’t want to injure this poor leg long term, and one day of rest doesn’t seem to be cutting it for the poor thing. I’ve also been stretching it and I’m thinking about looking up some stuff to do with the foam roller tomorrow at the gym.

Also, amusing physical obstacles: #skinnypersonproblems (Is there already a term for this that I should be using instead? You know, the way there is #firstworldproblems?). I can’t seem to find a hydration pack in this town that isn’t a) like $50 or b) too big for me. They are either “one size” which does not go down to a 26″ waist or they are handheld things and I have little baby hands (to be fair, I also had baby hands when I was overweight). Today, I carried a 10 oz water bottle from Target because it is my smallest water bottle and my hands were killing me from gripping it, even though I kept switching back and forth. I guess I’ll just keep hunting until I find a cheap one for skinny people, oh well. I’m also worried this problem will come up when I start looking for GPS watches – I know that when I thought about ordering a road ID I realized that I would have to order a child sized one. Do they even make child sized GPS watches?!

Another (tiny) physical obstacle: I need to get a better camera so that I can take more and better pics to post on this blog, which I think my comments about picture taking throughout this post make somewhat apparent!

Foods on Fridays

I have done really well with staying in my calorie range this week. Even last night with the pizza – my wonderful and awesome BFF/roomie shared the small pizza with me, so it was basically impossible to over eat! Now, on towards a successful weekend!

In terms of new foods, I bought some shrimp this week and have been making a lot of pasta dishes with shrimp in it. I pretty much rotate between turkey sausage, chicken breast, and tilapia for meat so this has been a nice change of pace. I also plan on trying out a new recipe tomorrow: Greek Yogurt Pancakes. I saw this recipe recommended on another blog that I read, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I’ll let you know how it goes.

My workout today went…ok. I’m not making much progress on my squat compared to other exercises, but I am improving my form and feeling more comfortable, so hopefully that will help. I decided to run on the treadmill because it is incredibly windy here and doing this weird mix of snow/ice pellets and I was already feeling pretty miserable. I’ve been reading coverage on what is going on in Boston basically since I woke up. So I also ran on the treadmill so that I could make sure to watch the news, but obviously there have not been any developments.

On a lighter note: at the gym, I finally managed to see another confused woman who was just as girly and out of place as me (I promise I am not making fun of you fellow gym girl, I am telling you I feel a sense of camraderie). The other day, I felt out of place when I accidentally wore an entirely bright pink outfit to the gym: running tights, shorts, t-shirt, heck even my bra and headband were bright pink. Then this lady shows up not only wearing bright pink but also a flower in her hair! I am not alone!