You know how some people like to go for therapy? Or paint? Or stare at the horizon as if searching for answers?
I like to work out.
That probably comes as no surprise to those of you who have spent any time on this blog or with me in person, but I have to say, I didn’t truly realize how important physical activity was to me until after Vivi was born.
I wasn’t always this way. I started exercising in high school when I went through that tumultuous phase many teen girls go through of thinking I was fat. (Vivi, I know I probably can’t keep you from having those feelings, but let’s hope I’m able to help you handle them better than I handled them on my own!) Going to the gym was a punishing experience that I didn’t really look forward to except in that it would help abate my own guilt and self-loathing.
As I got older and started to let go of some of the adolescent nonsense, I started running and even signed up for a few races. In running, I found a solace I had never experienced before. Yes, I was burning calories, but I also found that my mind was a littler calmer, a little quieter with every footfall and every quickened breath.
By the time I worked up the courage to sign up for my first half marathon, I knew I was on to something much more important than my jeans size.
A couple of years ago, a series of injuries pushed me to expand my workout horizons, and I started delving into fitness classes ranging from spin to pilates to boot camps. Where I had previously shied away from such public displays of fitness (one of the best parts of running is the quiet time you get with yourself), I found that the group environment had its own slew of benefits, from an accelerated atmosphere to extra motivation in the way of competition. Plus, classes offered variety, which is arguably the number one thing running tends to lack.
By the time I was ready to start trying for a baby, I was in the best shape of my life. I felt strong physically but also emotionally. I wasn’t the lightest I had ever been as an adult, but I didn’t even care about that anymore as long as I was able to crank out a dozen burpees and demonstrate a reasonable amount of flexibility.
As I’ve mentioned before, my then-doctor recommended I cut back on workouts when we started trying to get pregnant. I down-shifted to less strenuous options, but I knew I couldn’t stop completely. After all, exercise was sometimes the only thing I felt was keeping me sane. I was thrilled when I got pregnant fairly quickly and was able to return to more regular workouts.
And, as you know, I worked out my entire pregnancy. I feel very fortunate that I was able and felt up to working out right up until my 39th week (yeah, that last week? not happening), and I went into labor feeling strong and capable of handling whatever this little baby threw at me.
And then…I had a baby.
Suddenly, my life revolved around the needs of this tiny, desperate creature, and, honestly, I didn’t even think about workouts the first few weeks. I was exhausted, often starving (thanks a lot, breastfeeding), and, quite frankly, had some bigger things on my mind. I’m sure it helped that, because I hadn’t gained a lot of excess weight during pregnancy, I lost the baby weight in the first week or two. I know myself, and I know this whole experience would have been more mentally difficult if I was also dealing with my insecurity demons.
But as the weeks went on (and the flush of happy hormones started to level out), the insecurities did come creeping back. And while I was ironically lighter than I had ever been as an adult, I started to crave that feeling of strength and capability I had come to count on.
By the time I hit my 6-week mark and got the okay to exercise from my midwife, I was itching to do something active. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), I had agreed to run a 10K with a girlfriend months prior. That experience was…difficult. (Running six miles after not running for almost a year? Sure…let’s do that…) But it also felt good to hit the road again.
After that, I was determined to keep up my momentum. The problem? It’s really hard to find time to exercise with a 7-week-old baby. I decided to start small, which, honestly, was probably a smarter move since my body was still in healing mode. Since I was mostly looking to tone up and regain strength, I started scouring YouTube for exercise videos. I had to keep the workouts short (between 20-30 minutes) to fit them into Viv’s nap time, but you would be surprised how many options are out there. (Jillian Michaels and GymRa are my two favorites.)
As Vivi got older and started being able to entertain herself, I was able to workout while she was still awake. I would even incorporate her into the workout as a weight if she started to fuss, which satisfied us both. Working out with the baby also freed up her nap times for my freelance work, cleaning house, cooking, etc.
And I’m happy to report that it has only gotten easier to fit in fitness as Vivi has gotten older. Not only am I now able to leave her with Joey for the occasional spin class, she’s also big enough to ride in my jogging stroller for jaunts around the park. (I call her my personal trainer because she starts to fuss if I slow down to walk. It’s very motivational.)
Now I’m even training for another 10K in June — and Vivi will be pounding out every training mile with me.
The biggest difference between now and then, though? Now, I’m not just keeping fit for me. I want to be healthy so I can keep up with my daughter as she grows. I want to set an example of health and fitness for her now, and maybe even have the opportunity to run with her when she’s older. I look forward to our runs as bonding time because we always take a break to sit in the sunshine in the park. And I love to think that by setting a pattern of health now, I’m maybe saving her from some of those negative adolescent feelings later.
Let’s hit the road, baby doll.
When I first went to type the title of this post, I almost wrote “November 2014.” So that should give you an idea of what to expect from this post.
Aannnnnyyyyyway. Here are a few things going on that I just couldn’t make warrant full posts.
1. I went camping.
Like, over a week ago. Obviously, nothing earth-shattering happened. But it was nice being in the woods. It was also Bogey’s first time camping. He loved it, but was EXHAUSTED by the time we went home. Guess it’s hard to get by without your usual 8-hour nap every day.
I didn’t take a ton of pictures, but I like the above shot. I’ve always been a little bit afraid of heights, but every year we hike this gorgeous area called Mohonk. It’s a literal rock scramble, and occasionally you’re clinging to a fairly slippery boulder trying to launch yourself over a narrow (but deep) hole in the mountain. I’m never exactly terrified for my life, but there are times I feel uncomfortable about the fact that I could get hurt.
At the end of the day, though, I like to chalk it up as one more thing I do that scares me or pushes me out of my comfort zone. No point in getting complacent at the ripe old age of 27, right?
2. I ran my fifth half marathon.
This was the first distance race I’ve ever done without really training for it. Granted, I work out 5-6 days a week, and I have a full marathon under my belt, but I was a little nervous considering I hadn’t run more than eight miles in one stretch since April.
Things went surprisingly well, though! I finished in under two hours, which was a relief after the bust of the Philly Half and my unpleasant Paris experience. It’s always nice to run a full race without ever wanting to die at any point.
Plus, this race gave you a crown and a glass of champagne at the end. So I didn’t hate THAT.
3. Bogey had his first tick.
I woke up this morning to our usual cuddle session, but got distracted by a pill-shaped mass clinging to the tip of his right ear. Surprise, surprise, our little fuzz face had an interloper.
We did the classic hold-a-blown-out-match-by-the-tick’s-head and then removed it with tweezers. We’re not quite sure when he picked up his little parasite (maybe camping? but that was a while ago…), so now I’m keeping an eye on him for any signs of infection. So far, though, he has been acting the same as always.
It’s weird having this little life form that we feel so responsible for. Like, we love the crap out of that dog. The thought of something happening to him kills me. Yet another reason why I firmly believe a dog is a great preview into parenthood. (I know, I KNOW that having a kid is a million times more complicated. I’m just saying it’s similar.)
So that’s pretty much everything of note. October is going to be busy, and then we take our California Adventure in November. December (I’m hoping) will be nice and quiet.
What have y’all been up to?
As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of post-race soreness. While I was able to walk down stairs (mostly) normally about five days after the race, I gave myself a full week off of any exercise.
When I took my first run the day after we got back, things were a little ugly. My pace was more than a full minute slower than normal, and my legs felt like they were full of lead. I had initially planned on running five or six miles, but I only managed to eke out a little under four.
I read somewhere that post-marathon, you should give yourself some time off and then do your taper weeks in reverse. So really, I could just say I was following directions.
But honestly, my legs just weren’t working quite like they used to.
Since then, I’ve run about four more times. The third run was the first one where I felt pretty much back to normal, but I still haven’t gone more than eight miles.
One really good thing about the training schedule is that I’m already on a pattern of working out five or more times a week, so waking up early for classes or runs isn’t nearly as hard as it used to be.
And, you know. Swimsuit season, or whatever. (Though for me, it looks more like wedding season than anything else…I have six this year.)
Speaking of classes, I’m going to have to add a lot more barre or pilates into the mix — my flexibility is shot from training. It’s mostly my own fault; I didn’t stretch after runs nearly as much as I should have. But it is also injury-related, as I developed a fun case of sciatica in the second half of training. Hopefully a few recovery-based classes will help stretch that out.
The one injury that seems to be improving (mostly) is my plantar fasciitis (these names, amiright?). The heel pain is still there in the morning, especially after a run, but not nearly as crippling as it was a year ago.
The only other thing I’ve had to contend with is the tapering of the hungers. I’m used to eating more food, more often. And because I’m no longer burning 1,800+ calories every weekend, that’s not really a sustainable system.
Fortunately, my sweet tooth has calmed down since I stopped training. Now that it’s spring, I’m swapping out more of the carbs I had to eat before with fruits and vegetables. Basically anything I can eat a lot of without eating thousands of calories.
In general, I feel better post-marathon than I thought I would. It’s nice having more free time an feeling less tethered to the training schedule — I can actually try other workouts now!
Speaking of which, I owe you a gym review, so stay tuned.
Other marathon runners: Do my complaints sound familiar? Or have I branched off into my own realm of broken-down-ness?
A big part of my brain is still having trouble processing that the marathon is over. Heck, most of my brain still can’t quite wrap my mind around what my body did.
Before I get into what went down, if have to preface the story with one thing: I’m not totally thrilled with my results. (Downer of a preface, huh?) Let’s Tarantino that statement and get into what happened.
I promise there will be a post all about Paris this week, but for now all you need to know is that my luggage didn’t arrive until day four of our trip.
Admittedly, this upset me more than it should have. Fortunately, I had packed almost all of my running things in my carry-on, but I was missing my snacks and a few other details. Thanks to Diana, I was able to start the race with everything I truly needed, but I still felt a little off.
The morning of the race was gorgeous. Before noon, it was sunny and 65 degrees, which was lovely but also not conditions I was used to running in after our horrendous winter. What I’m saying is, I sweat a lot more than normal. And, for whatever reason, the marathon only had water stations every five miles or so, and I felt more dehydrated than I usually do.
Also, without getting too gross, I started having a few stomach issues around mile eight. That’s when things fell apart for me a little. I had to walk a few times, and it wasn’t until a Powerade station around the midpoint of the race that I stopped feeling quite so depleted.
And the port-o-potties on the race? The people who used then before me were animals. I have never seen such revolting toilets in my life. (Okay, sorry, that’s gross.)(POOP EVERYWHERE. HUMAN FECES.)
My mile 16, things started to hurt. I was so frustrated because my two 20-mile runs had gone so well, and now I was facing the reality of plodding along for another ten miles in serious discomfort. But really, there was nothing else to do but plod along.
So I kept at it.
To their credit, the people who came out to watch were very kind. They would chant out your name (it was on my bib) and encourage you to keep going. So that helped.
In the end, my time was about four and a half hours, a half hour longer than what I was (quietly) hoping for.
Part of me wants to try again this fall on another course, just because I know I could do better. Part of me never, ever wants to do that again.
One thing I don’t think enough people emphasize when we talk about running marathons: It hurts. By mile 22, I swear I thought my feet were going to crack in half. At mile 24, if there had been a way for me to cheat to just make it end, I honestly can’t say I wouldn’t have done it. When I finally crossed the finish line, I burst into tears and couldn’t get it together for about 10 minutes. (The poor women handing out the t-shirts looked deeply concerned.) My legs (and back and obliques) burned for the rest of the night, and I couldn’t walk down stairs normally for about five days.
So the experience was less fun than I think I was expecting. But who knows — the human body can’t remember pain, so maybe I’ll feel up to it in another few months. (Maybe.)
After everything, I’m trying not to beat myself up about not having the best run ever. At the end of the day, I still ran a marathon, something I’m not sure I totally believed I could do until the second half of my training. The actual race, as well as the entire training process, has made me realize that my body is capable of so much more than I usually give it credit for. Another thing people don’t emphasize enough when we talk about running marathons? It’s a huge confidence boost.
Thanks so much to everyone who cheered me along during this whole process, especially my lovely running partner and darling husband who were there to (literally) support me at the end. I love you all.
Now that my marathon training is basically over (have I mentioned how much I love taper weeks?), I wanted to do a round-up of things I’ve learned so far in case any of my readers are considering a marathon of their own. Obviously, this is all said without ever having actually run a marathon (yet), but here are a few tidbits I garnered from my training process.
1. Tell everyone you are training for a marathon — or else you will probably quit.
Sure, you put down something north of $100 for this race, but that will start to feel negligible about a month and a half in. (Plus, if you’re smart, you paid for the cancelation insurance in case of injury.) The only thing that is going to keep you running past the halfway training point is pride and the fear of telling everyone you announced your training to that you are wimping out. So tell everyone. Tell your friends. Tell your coworkers. Tell your hair stylist. Tell the guy at the shoe store. You get the idea.
2. You should probably invest in a fanny pack.
Go ahead, laugh. Get it all out. Then get over it. Because unless you are planning to pack all your snacks, cell phone, headphones, etc. in your pockets, you’ll need something to hold it all. I got through most of my training sans le pac de derrière (as I imagine the French would say it), but long runs required a pouch for gummies and metro cards and and cash and things.
I refuse to ever wear a water belt, though.
3. You will be tired. All the time.
No, really. See also: hungry.
4. Your husband/boyfriend/friends will become running widows. Or whatever the running equivalent of a football/hockey widow is.
Training takes time, yo. Time that you normally would have spent grabbing dinner, drinks, and generally having a life. And unless your friends are also training, odds are they can’t just join you for a quick 12-miler after work one night. So let them know that training is going to take priority for a while. (That is, unless they are willing to swap your usual happy hours for a cross training class.)
5. You probably won’t lose weight.
Unless you are starting out with a significant amount of weight to lose, don’t bank on training lowering the number on the scale that much. Yes, you’ll be burning more calories, but you’ll also need to eat more to keep up your strength (plus, see the aforementioned “hungry all the time”). Odds are, if you’re training for a marathon, you’ve been a runner for a while and are probably pretty close to your “happy weight,” and your body is going to hold on to extra calories to support these 1,700 calorie-burning runs you’ll do from time to time. Plus, you know, muscle weighs more than fat blah blah blah, and you’ll probably see higher fluctuations from water weight.
Don’t feel too bad, though — my weight stayed exactly the same, but I definitely got more toned and my clothes fit differently. You’re going to get stronger, dude.
6. You can actually gain weight whilst training.
It seems like a sick joke when you’re working out 5-6 days a week, but it’s true. The hungers are fierce, and it’s easy to tell yourself that you deserve an extra slice of cake when you’re training. But gaining weight can affect your pace, so keep in mind that the better in shape you are, the fewer calories each run will actually burn. You should be eating more carbs while you train, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to more food. The best advice I heard while training was to replace things with carbs. So instead of adding a side of pasta to your usual lunch, replace your salad and chicken with quinoa and chicken. You’ll get the calories and carbs you need without overdoing anything. (Obviously take all my diet advice with a grain of salt…everyone is different, and a doctor or nutritionist can give you much better advice for your body and health. I’m just some chick who runs a lot.)
7. You will not be able to sit cross-legged anymore.
This was a weird one. I’m the type of person that is really bad at just sitting normally; I’m usually pretzel-twisted up in the corner of the couch or something. But about midway through training, I realized that if I sat in any way that wasn’t with both feet flat on the ground with my butt in a chair, my muscles would basically fuse in that position when I tried to stand up. It was weird. And annoying. And painful.
I still can barely believe the race is only a week-and-a-half away. Any last-minute advice from marathon veterans out there?
My blog has been SO boring lately. I promise there are a lot of things in the works, but trust me when I tell you that I am protecting you from an unnecessary amount of thoughts on running. It’s all I think about, but I know it’s not that interesting to most of you.
Here’s a brief recap for those of you who do care.
The second 20 was a bit harder than the first. I think , in general, my legs (and especially my ankles) are just more tired and sore than they were two weeks ago. I also ran this 20 slightly faster. We’re talking about the difference of seconds per mile, but I think it affected things. I ran the first six miles way too quickly, and I could definitely feel it in the second half of the run. (I was excited because I started the run feeling really good, which doesn’t always happen.)
Save it for race day, Justine.
Other than that, not much else changed. I recently purchased what will be my race day shoes, so I’ve been breaking those in. I also tried a new type of running fuel, these gummies called Sharkies. I liked them a lot, both for flavor and the little boost they have me, so hopefully I can find more to bring to Paris.
Eating while running is really the weirdest thing. I always want to explain to people that I’m running 20 miles; I’m not just incapable of going on a jog without snacks.
I still haven’t tried any of the goos or gels. Even thinking about that texture tickles my gag reflex, and the gummies have been working just fine for me.
Speaking of eating (and when am I not), I’ve also narrowed down the best pre-race meal for me: oatmeal with blueberries, agave, and chopped nuts with a coffee with soy milk and a glass of half G2/half water.
Not all mixed together…the oatmeal, the coffee, and the Gatorade/water mix.
So I’m thinking Gatorade is another thing I might have to smuggle in…I recall Joey and I having difficulty finding it when we had food poisoning on our honeymoon.
As for my post-race meal…um, how about everything?
Only two weeks until the race! Any last-minutes advice from runner friends?
(I promise the next post will have nothing to do with running.)