Monday, January 31, 2005

My Pride Takes a Blow

Last week one of my office mates was giving me a hard time, so I mockingly punched him in the shoulder. He said, "Man, you're weak!" So I punched him again, harder, and he still failed to be impressed.

Outraged at being termed weak, I got the idea that I should arm wrestle one of the other women in the office to prove my strength. So she and I sat down at my desk, took our respective arm-wrestling positions, and commenced.

She beat me! Easily, in a few seconds, with barely a grimace and she hardly exercises and certainly doesn't lift weights. I was aghast!

I went around to the other women in the office hoping to entice someone else to wrestle, to give me a new chance to prove my mettle, but sadly found no takers.

Being whupped in arm-wrestling sucked. I told her we had to have a re-match in a few months. I fully intend to defeat her and claim a triumphant victory. I will then force my co-workers to carry me around the office parking lot on their shoulders singing my praises.

Inspired by Chris' amazing focus and goal setting, I've decided to draft a four-week workout schedule for February. The schedule incorporates running, weights, HIIT, various other cardio and a week of "taper", in which I will back off some on the cardio to allow my body to make some adjustments. I read about that idea in "Slow Fat Triathlete" and it makes sense to me. This is also the month in which I plan to join a running club and run a second 5k.

I think February is a crucial month to try this schedule because I dread February. In my neck of the woods, February is always chilly, drizzly and just generally gloomy. My motivation to get out into the world and work out as opposed to staying inside is going to be challenged this month, so I figured I needed a plan of attack.

Saturday I ran from my house to the downtown library. My city is rather famed for having a river running through the town center, and there is a sub-street level portion of it that runs throughout the city, lined with restaurants. It's a colorful, picturesque place, but geared towards tourists. I rarely visit, but have found myself for several Saturday's running downtown in the early morning and running along the river.

This Saturday, I didn't eat breakfast before the run, which was a mistake. By the time I was done with my regular 35 minutes, I was nauseous and drained of energy. I lay down on a stone ledge by the river for several minutes to recover.

There was a tree above me, and as I lay there I watched the early morning sun reflect off the water and create undulating ribbons of light against the tree's leaves. At that moment I felt a warm sense of ownership for my city, for this place.

I don't think I felt that same sense of recognition, of belonging before I started running and biking regularly (and, or course, using public transportation regularly.) Doing all these things forces you out into the physical world, into the neighborhood, onto the streets. Buildings, intersections, vistas begin to have a personal meaning. You build up a history with these spots after repeated visiting. I once read about the idea of drawing a "heart" map: sitting down and mapping certain spots that are part of your emotional topography-- the place you do your laundry early on Sundays, the place you fell off your bike one time, or fed a sweet stray dog, or the spot with the beautiful front porch you covet. With the ways running and biking puts you out into the landscape, it would be easy for me to sit down and ink such a heart map.

My run Saturday was awful, but the feeling of belonging in this world that I got afterward was good. And it was the run -- the accumulations of runs, actually -- that brought me that sense of awareness and gratitude and affection.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Sartorial Solutions, In Search Of

This drives me crazy:

Is it too much to ask that I be able to run without giving myself a wedgie? I've had this problem with shorts ever since I've had thighs -- in other words, forever -- but you'd think a savvy someone would come up with shorts that didn't ride up. I want to wear cute running shorts, too! It shouldn't just be something the skinny thigh girls get to do.

If anyone can offer some shopping and/or brand name suggestions, I would be eternally grateful, and the fine denizens of my neighborhood would no longer be subjected to my egregious fashion displays.


I'm keeping on keeping on running. Though I still struggle with my runs, I think I may be getting a mite faster, though I don't know since I don't have a way of measuring the distances I've been running. My modest hope for my second 5K next month is to shave at least a minute off my time from my first 5K. My previous official time was 35:04. Maybe a minute is too much to hope for, maybe I should shoot for 30 seconds faster? Heck, I think I'll just be happy to come in anywhere under 35. I'm not much one to be super-competitive, but I think a faster time would indicate improved strength and fitness, which is what this whole dang thing is about.

I also went swimming this weekend. I did 25 lengths which I think is 400 meters or half a mile. I was so oxygen-deprived by the end of the swim that my brain was incapable of higher mathematical functioning. I must have swam with too much enthusiasm because my right shoulder has been aching ever since in a weird, deep-muscle kind of way.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Strength Audit

For the purposes of posterity, I'm recording my current strength training routine in the event that at some point in the future I will become freakishly strong and want to prove to the world at large my humble beginnings. Also, I'm sure this list may be amusing to me upon retrospect when I figure out what the heck I'm doing and develop a better understanding of, oh say, my own anatomy and the names and locations of various muscles and an inkling of how working certain muscles in certain mysterious ratios will make of me a performance machine, or whatnot.

2-3 times/week
1 set = 12-15 reps

In various order, depending on how I feel:

2 sets of dumbell bench presses, 10 lbs each hand
3 sets of dumbell rows, 12 lbs
2 sets of overhead shoulder press, 5 lbs each hand
30-40 abdominal crunches
1 set calf raises on machine thingy, 25 lbs
3 sets of squats on machine thingy, bar only (45 lbs)
2 sets of dips on assisted dip machine, moving approximately 52 lbs of body weight
2 sets of chin ups on assisted chin-up machine, moving approximately 40 lbs of body weight
3 sets of leg presses, 90 lbs
2 sets of hip abductors, inner, 50 lbs
2 sets of hip abductors, outer, 50 lbs

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The road back to normal

I've almost got this cold licked.

Last night I was determined to workout. I was hoping to run my usual 35 minutes without feeling ill, so I decided to run really, really slooooooooooow.

Holding yourself back is difficult! It took me about 10 minutes to get used to this slower pace. I felt at points that I was just walking quickly, but with a bounce. Regardless, keeping this pace allowed me to finish the full run happily and feeling strong.

I am dissapointed that two weeks of spotty cardio activity would affect my progress this much, but it apparently has done so.

And I must admit that my motivation has suffered somewhat as well. Once you get used to laying on the couch it's hard to remember the benefits of doing otherwise.

I got a really good deal on a used copy of Game Face. The pictures in this book really inspire me. I think I should look at them tonight to get myself pumped about tomorrow's run.

Monday, January 10, 2005

A run, por fin

I'm still feeling under the weather, with some lingering chest congestion and a cough, as well as a yucky, scabby blister under my nose that I always get from too much Kleenex use. So not only do I have piss-poor energy but I look freakish, too.

But I'm not one to tolerate my own whining for long, and I'm getting worried about this enforced cardio break, so I decided to try a run.

I was at the Y this weekend strength training, so I decided to try treadmill running for the first time. I was curious how I'd react because I know people have strong opinions about running on treadmills vs. the great outdoors. I stared at all the buttons for a good 5 minutes before I figured out how to get the thing going. I decided on a zero incline since this was my first try.

The room was overly warm so I sweat like crazy and I'm sure I broke some sort of gym etiquette rule because I didn't have a teeny-tiny towel to wipe the machine. Also, I found that running right next to other people does make me feel a bit anxious and competitive -- the woman next to me kept upping her speed every 2 minutes or so and I worried that she was feeling smug about her faster pace the whole time.

In the end, I only could run for 25 minutes before I started feeling faint and nauseous. But I didn't hate the treadmill, either, so now I know that it's an option as well if I don't want to run outside.

Because of this lingering cold, I think I'm going to shoot for February 5k instead of an earlier one. There's a February 19th run that looks likely; also a local running store in sponsoring a "Trail Running 101" class in March that I'll keep on my radar.

The reason I was at the Y was to take advantage of a free session I get with a staff member as part of my membership.

I've been frustrated that I had little clue what some of the equipment in the weight room was for, so I decided to have the staff member educate me.

Some of the equipment has helpful pictures, but some of the older equipment is mysterious, with weird protrusions and rusty metal grips and duct-taped padding.

So I learned quite a bit from my little tour. I even learned that those weird duct-taped racks are used for various types of ab exercises.

The Y staff also showed me how to use the squat machine, and the assisted chin-up and assisted dip machines. These machines DO have picture but having someone else show me means that I'm much more likely to actually use them.

I did have a revelation during the tour. I realized that all this equipment is used to work the major muscle groups and that -- get this -- I can use a variety of equipment to work the same muscles! In fact, there are lots of different ways to work the exact same muscles. As in, I can work the back muscles by using one of 4 or 5 different pieces of equipment. I think I had been laboring under the assumption that each piece of equipment did something vastly different from another piece of equipment. So I discovered that I really only have to do a few exercises on whatever equipment I care to use that day and still work the proper muscles.

I also learned that the dumbbells with the big, flat round weights on the end are no different than the dumbbells with the short, octagonal weights on the end. This had been bugging me, but now I know.

First Salsa class tonight. I wish I felt a bit better energywise, but I'm still looking forward to the class. My dancing shoes are packed and ready to go!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Ass as Metaphor (or, How the Junk in My Trunk Set Me Free!)

This post by Annalisa reminded me of an ass-related comment I once received .

This is what happened:

Several years ago (circa pre J-Lo) I was walking down the street in, of all places, a Guatemalan village. A man walking in back of me called out -- he turned out to be someone I'd met months ago in another city, a Kenyan making a circuit of Central America. He seemed bemused as he walked up to greet me, and then stated matter-of-factly, "You know, from behind you really can't tell what race you are."

I surreptitiously reached back to take a swipe at my butt, trying to make sense of what he'd said. Was there a flag or something hanging off my ass? Was there some sort of deformity I was unaware of back there? What did he mean, "my race"? Butts didn't denote race, did they? And if they did, was mine white, black, multi-racial? Should I be insulted? Embarrassed? But the Kenyan just continued on with the conversation, ignorant of my confusion. Only later did I realize the comment was a compliment of sorts, but one I didn’t immediately grasp because of my own cultural myopia. He liked my fat ass, only I had never taken the time to notice much about my ass at all.

I'm not sure why I'm telling this little anecdote, maybe because I mark that time in my life as the beginning of a change in my set of internal beauty standards. But also, I guess this little story serves to show that we don't really know what other people admire, or judge, or appreciate or perceive about us, and sometimes finding out can shake your own perceptions up in a good way.

Alas, no running yet, as my lungs keep making a valiant, diligent effort to be coughed out.

However. I've lifted the credit card ban to pay for 6-week salsa class. Most excellent!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Instead of starting the New Year off with a Bang!, it started off with a Doh!

I had decided to participate in a New Year's Day ride, sponsored by several local bike clubs and stores. The event was an informal group ride on some bucolic roads north of the city. It was the first goal on my 2005 list of goals.

I had a cold. A cough. A sore throat and possibly a fever. It was raining and I was underdressed. The person I planned to ride with couldn't make it after all. But dammit, it was on the list! So I went.

The route was 20 miles, which I could normally knock off pretty easily, but feeling crappy made it something of an ordeal. As well, I haven't done group rides in a over a year and I'd forgotten how much my self-esteem takes a beating when my mountain bike is put to the test against all those sleek road machines. Even with all my positive self-talk I wasn't able to keep from feeling discouraged when I was left at the back of the pack.

So when I finally got my miserable, self-pitying, ill self back to the car I was not exactly coherent. I took off my front wheel to load the bike into the trunk, jumped into the warm car and promptly drove off without the front wheel.

I didn't realize until a few hours later when I got around to unloading the car. I drove the 40 minutes back to the site and there was no wheel to be found. When I got back home, someone calling numbers from the ride's sign-in roster left a message about the wheel, but by force of habit my finger hovered over the erase button and pushed it before my addled brain could stop that reflex.

So, no front wheel. My poor bike looks bereft. It fumes at me and stares accusingly. I'm sure I'll track down that wheel at some point, but it sure is a dorky way to start off the New Year.

At least my nasty cold is abating and I'll be in shape to jog for the first time since last Wednesday.

On the running front, I was encouraged by a comment Dani left on Mia's blog (Congratulations, by the way, Mia!) Dani said it took her over two years to go from a 12 minute mile to a 10 minute mile, and another year to get down to 9. Somehow, that made me feel a lot better about my own performance, even if I never get that much faster. It made me realize that this running thing is something that takes practice and patience. So, thanks Dani!