Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chairs Are Part of Practise Too

This weekend I tried a completely new yoga class – Iyengar Yoga at Yogaworks. The journey through the class ended up being journey for myself. I walked into the class and we were told to get a couple of blankets, a strap, a bolster, and A CHAIR.  A CHAIR?!?! What sort of class had I gotten myself into? A super easy class where we are going to figure out how to sit up straight? WHAT????

The class was ultimately working toward Revolved Side Angle pose (Parivrtta Parsvakonasasa), although you would never have know it from the start. Instead, we spent the first 30 minutes sitting in our chairs, working deeper into our twists, and moving our chests forward and down while keeping our hips on the chair. There seemed to be a lot of taking our chair to the wall, doing something, and then going back to the mat, and doing something else, all while working toward a deeper twist. At first, it all seemed so disconnected, and I was going crazy with frustration and boredom. I also should put in a disclaimer that while I am no twist master, I was finding the use of the chair easy because of my long arms. I am barely removed from a monkey. 

Back and forward, sitting with blankets, holding onto the chair legs. When was this going to end?? And then, suddenly, without me even realizing, the class became hard. I was no longer finding it easy to place my hand wherever I was supposed to. Even though they were supported by a chair, my thighs were burning with the stretch. We did a neat Warrior 2 using the chair to get our thighs parallel to the floor, which demonstrated just how hard that is, and really, how far away I am from that at the moment. And then suddenly, we were back on our mats, going into a really sweet, deep Revolved Side Angle pose, which although was tough to hold, was definitely the furthest and most “correct” version of that asana that I have ever done. It was incredible.

From there we moved into Shoulder Stands, which I am still completely incapable of making the “leap of fear” to get my legs in the air and up. If someone catches my legs and sets me up, I’m a happy camper. If anyone has any suggestions on literally how to make the leap, please, please let me know. Finally, those chairs came back into play with some nice supported back bends.

I came out of the class both feeling accomplished, and changed. I had learned to be a little more open, and a little more humble, and a lot more flexible, both in mind and body. A true yoga practice.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monthly Goal Setting

Do you set monthly goals for yourself? I saw the following phrase on Lululemon’s twitter feed and decided to try it out for this month:
In October I will run ______ miles and go to _____ yoga classes

My goals for October are:

·         Run 40 miles
·         Go to 10 yoga classes
·         Go to 12 Core Fusion classes

So far my progress is:
·         Run 24 miles
·         Gone to 4 yoga classes
·         Gone to 5 core classes

I know, you’re thinking I won’t hit my targets, aren’t you? I know that it looks like that too, but I’m actually confident. I based my targets on my weekly exercise plans. Every couple of weeks I plan out my exercise schedule. It is based upon a couple of things – what classes I want to go to (like everyone, I have teacher preferences, and of course my favorite teachers for different things are scheduled at the same time), whether I’ve done a lot of core or yoga or running the previous week, if I have something I’m working toward like a race, and of course my social life. I do tend to overschedule myself, because I know that social life will 99 times trump working out, so I will never manage to get to everything I have scheduled for myself.

For example, if I actually did every single thing class I scheduled for myself in October my stats would be:

·         Run: 43.2 miles
·         Yoga: 13 classes
·         Core Fusion: 17 classes

Looking at that, it’s still pretty attainable, but would definitely involve some early starts. During the summer, working out in the morning isn’t utterly dreadful, but when you’re waking up in pitch black, going for that run or biking down to the studio just does not have the same appeal.

Does anyone else create monthly goals? Are you good at sticking to them?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Grete's Gallop Half Marathon Race Recap

It’s been over a week since I completed my very first half marathon, and already it feels as if it has faded into a distant memory. However, I know that I love reading race recaps, so I thought I should definitely share mine.

This was my first ever race, and I was feeling quite nervous. My husband and I walk our dog every Saturday morning in Central Park, so the morning started as usual. However, the whole race registration and people milling everywhere was not good for our wee pup Moose, who got really confused and upset that his Mom was leaving him, so started to freak out. My husband and I then had a fight about this not being good for him, and the fact I asked him to carry home my sweater. I ended up walking off without him even saying good luck, and stood in the corral feeling very lonely. I’m sure lots of people run on their own. However, nobody around me was, and I felt really alone and mad at my husband at the start. This is probably not the optimum way to start a race.

And we’re off!!
I was really nervous when we started running for a couple of reasons. I’d never really run a race before, I knew I hadn’t done enough training, and I had never run around the park in the clockwise direction, so I was acutely aware that I wasn’t really sure of what hills were where. Everyone around me seemed very in control and calm and comfortable. Inside I was shaking! I started off at a reasonably steady pace – around 10 min/miles. My Nike Plus iPhone app might only be $2.99 and offer integration with dailymile and let me view my runs online, but it doesn’t offer splits which drives me crazy. I did feel like I was going a little fast than I should have been, but nothing serious. The first couple of miles were very crowded, which meant that there was a good energy to run with, but as I’m not used to racing, also made me feel quite nervous.. Within 2 miles of the start of the race was the finishing line, so we had the strange sensation of running past the finish. I smiled when I saw the finish, before remembering I had a couple of hours more to run! My wee brain just had so many questions over the first couple of miles that I barely remember anything about it! I stopped for water at the first break and walked the water break. I have to admit that it felt strange to be walking so quickly into a race, but I was really trying to keep my body calm and slow it down.

The Harlem Hills
The Harlem Hills. The part of Central Park that every runner fears. I had never run them the clockwise direction, only the anti-clockwise. A couple of nights before, I had been for dinner with a runner who swore that clockwise is incredibly difficult. I was pretty scared. I started running uphill. I got to the top. I realized I was going downhill. Wait? That was it? That was The Big Hill? It’s a bump! So okay, I had a downhill (waterbreak) , and another uphill to run, but compared to the pain that I was expecting, it was all pretty easy, and my pace was still hovering around the 10 min/mile mark. So far, so good.

Miles 4-6
Miles 4 through 6 are my favorite on any longer run because by that stage my legs have warmed up and have a nice rhythm, and I’m feeling strong and proud of myself and how far I’ve already run. I regularly stop running, so I can always recall the pain of starting again, of how painful a 5k can feel if you haven’t run in 6 months, so feeling strong after 30 minutes for me is such an inspiring sense of achievement. The runners had started to spread out by this stage as well, so I had more space and less concerns over tripping up over someone else. I had also taken the first of my Gu packs, so I was feeling the start of a sugar rush as well. I even spotted something I’d never seen in the park before – Cleopatra’s Needle! Can you believe I must have been to the park over 30 times in the last couple of years that I have been living here, and I had never seen it?! However, right after I saw it, I began to feel a nagging pain in my knee, right where the IT band joins the knee. I’ve had this pain occasionally on long runs before, but never this bad, and never so early on in a run. Instead, I usually would get it a couple of hours after a run. No such grace period this time. My main thought when it came on was, “oh crap, now I have to run 8 miles in pain”. As the race was 2 loops around the park, I also ran past the finish line for a second time. This time, they had actually set up the “finishers” lane. That made me laugh as to how far back I really was from the finish line.

Miles 8-10
I had been hoping to start speeding up at around Mile 8, as I had theoretically been going slower than I was able. However, the aching in my left knee was agony, and so my attempts at increasing my pace were pretty pathetic. These were pretty painful miles, although the pain did subside a little every time I had a walking break. For the record. I stopped at almost every water break except for the last couple, and walked about 15 yards every time drinking my water. I forgot to have my Gu gel at mile 8, and ended up having it just before I took on the Harlem Hills for a second time. Orange Gu without water is really nasty – that was definitely a mistake, although my stomach didn’t hurt, and I’m sure the energy was good for me. Remember how first time I flew up those hills? Ha! This time, with my IT band really hurting, I felt like I was barely crawling, although I never stopped running. But every single stride hurt. Of course, every thing that goes up must come down, and I definitely made up for pace racing down the downhills. Knowing that this was the last time I was running them I really let myself go and ran as fast as I liked. They also took the strain off my left knee.

The longest I had run before the half marathon was 9 miles a couple of weeks before. An experienced runner advised me that I would most likely struggle through mile 10 as my body wouldn’t be used to the extra mileage. Yet another thing for me to worry about! Honestly, most of the advise that people give you before running should be thrown out as it causes people to stress out even more! I sailed through mile 10, and was incredibly happy to be in the home straight.

Miles 11-13.2
The main thing about miles 11-13.2 was OWOWOWOWOWOWOOWOWOWOWOW. Both knees were now in excruciating pain. I stumbled twice, although I didn’t actually fall. If I had fallen, there was no way I was getting up. Mentally, I was trying to be as strong as I could be, knowing that I was going to finish this race. However strong my mind was trying to be, my body was aching along, keeping moving, but barely more than that. At mile 11, my husband turned up on his bike. Yes, that very husband who I had had a fight with that morning came back and biked a huge chunk of the race course to try and find me. What a trooper! We ran / biked together for a little bit before he decided to get out of the way of the other runners. I only had 1.5 miles left to go! The pain in both knees was almost mind numbing. When the finish line was in sight, I tried to pick up my pace so that at least I would be running with some pace over the finishline, but even by this point, I was barely able to keep my legs moving.  

I FINISHED!!! In 2hrs 11mins. I had set a must beat target time of 2:15, so I was pleased I had managed to beat that, but knew that if I hadn’t been in such pain, I could have done a much better job. I was sore and exhausted. My husband and I started to walk out of the park, where we bumped into our much more experienced marathon runner friends, and then went back in for the famous waffles. We actually got the last waffles they were serving – score! My husband biked home and I took a taxi. Even walking one block at this point felt a real stretch as my legs tightened up and my stomach was in knots and extremely nauseous. I drank a lot of water, took a shower, and had a nap for a couple of hours. When I woke up, my legs were exhausted and incredibly sore, but I was ready to eat. And eat and eat and eat.

Here's my splits:
Mile 1: 10:39
Mile 2: 10:19
Mile 3: 8:23
Mile 4: 9:17
Mile 5: 9:13
Mile 6: 10:26
Mile 7: 7:59
Mile 8: 9:27
Mile 9: 9:49
Mile 10: 10:36
Mile 11: 9:25
Mile 12: 10:26
Mile 13: 10:26
Mile 0.2:

After doing a bit of googling, my knee pain was caused by a pretty common IT band inflammation that comes on from overtraining. In my case, the mileage jump from 9 to zero to 13 was just too much, and in future (and there will be a future!), there will be many more training runs in my training schedule, and I’ll try not to plan as many vacations during the run-up to halves. It’s pretty silly to try and run a half marathon with less than 15 training runs. Oops. But overall, I feel so strong and proud and have a real sense of achievement, and am looking forward to running many, many more.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Training Week in Review

Last week was my first week of training, and it was moderately successful. A completely successful week would be one where I actually complete all of my scheduled workouts, but I am notoriously terrible at actually completing a whole week of planned activity. I do what I can. I know, what a terrible role model.

I went to CoreFusion and CoreFusion Yoga back to back on Monday at Exhale Spa at the Gaansevoort. I regularly do CoreFusion (usually at least 3 times a week, if not 4 or 5 depending on what other activities I have lined up), but had never tried CoreFusion Yoga. As I have mentioned before, I have been doing yoga for the last couple of months at YogaWorks, so I have a little bit of an idea of some basic poses but I'm no pro.

CoreFusion kicked my ass (literally!) as usual. I was expecting CoreFusion Yoga to be a little more slow-paced, and focusing on the stretching, lengthening aspects of yoga. No sireee!! The hour was spent doing push-ups in plank position, holding chair position and pulsing up and down (my thighs!! the burn!!!), lunges and and generally sweating and burning a lot. If I had been prepared for this, I probably would have enjoyed it, and even relished the challenge of really pushing my body. As it happens, I was looking forward to some calming yoga, and this certainly wasn't that. I didn't have a great time, but did get a great workout, so I cannot complain. And even though I didn't have a great time, I will actually be back for the double whammy, so it cannot have been that bad!!

Tuesday ended up being a complete rest day due to a laser session which means no sweating. I felt really bored and guilty for doing nothing that day. I did use the time to go and see Eat, Pray, Love with a friend. I hope I'm not alienating potential readers by saying that that movie was not for me. I didn't love the book either so maybe it was a done deal on not loving the movie. Javier was very hot though. James Franco was very funny, but I'm not sure he was supposed to be...

Wednesday was therefore my first run of the week. I did a 4 miles in 39:11 mins, which works out at 10:03 min/mile pace. I was playing around with my pace that day, so I'm not concerned that the time isn't as good as I would like. I ran the first half very slow, and then tried to speed up the second half f the run to catch up to being under 10 min/mile pace. I didn't make it, unfortunately, but I was experimenting, so it's okay.

Thursday was a double whammy day: I did another 4 mile run (38:44, so very slightly faster) which was ridiculously hot. I ended up running at about 4.30 in the afternoon, and the whole run was really about surviving and not passing out with heat. I came back home, took a very quick cold shower, hopped on my bike and headed to CoreFusion. For the first time in my life, I had a pretty easy instructor, and the class was not as painful as I thought it might have been. I was really dreading it!

Friday was another rest day. I ended up accidentally having a lot of wine at dinner at Hundred Acres (I love that place!), which was not so clever, and had to drink about 5 glasses of water when I came home.

My Saturday Running Playlist (I just shuffle)

Saturday was the day I was dreading. I had to run 6 miles around the Central Park loop. This is the same course as the race, and I have biked it a couple of times, so I know that there are quite a lot of hills, and it's not a super easy run. It was warm, and I haven't run 6 miles in over a year. I was genuinely scared, and really thinking that I wouldn't be able to make it.

I started out at a fairly slow pace, sticking to about 10:07 min/miles. This is a bit slower than I normally run, and I was very self-conscious that everyone was overtaking me. However, I was still moving, and my heart rate was very controlled, and I had no pain anywhere. There was nothing to worry about. Then, the dreaded Harlem Hills appeared. I had a long downhill, following by a really long uphill, and then another downhill. Just as the long uphill appeared, Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart came on my iPod. (Yes, I really am that uncool). OMG!!! Who knew that 80s ballads are THE BEST THING EVER FOR POWERING UP HILLS. 7 minutes of going the distance and even almost enjoying it. WOAH. (Yes, I know that I overused the capslock key in the last 200 words, but that is how strongly I feel).

The last couple of miles were a struggle because I picked up the pace and it was getting much much warmer. If I had kept going at the slow trucker pace that I was going, I probably could have made it to 8 miles, but since I sped up, I was beat at the 6.2 mile mark. Total time: 1:02hrs. Pace: a respectable 9:57 min/mile.

I was pretty tired after the run, and headed straight to yoga, where I had one of my favorite classes ever. I had a new instructor a YogaWorks, and he had such infectious energy that it uplifted me and made my proud, energized, relaxed, tall, and stretched. Heaven. I then met one of my friends at the Highline and we proceeded to wander around for a couple of hours. My only folly? I didn't eat enough during the whole day, and by 8pm I was exhausted, so no crazy Saturday plans for me.

The Moose

The only thing I really had planned for Sunday was yoga. It was awesome again, especially going into some easy shoulder stands. It rained all day, so the rest of the day was spent snuggling in with the Moose. How could you not want to snuggle with the Moose?

So, how did I compare to my plan:

Monday: Core Fusion and Core Fusion Yoga

Tuesday: 4 mile run

Wednesday: 2 mile run 4 mile run and Core Fusion

Thursday: 4 mile run and yoga and Core Fusion

Friday: REST DAY!!!!

Saturday: 6 mile run (eeek!!) and yoga

Sunday: Core Fusion and yoga

That's a lot of scoring out! But I only lost out on a 2 mile run, a yoga session, and a Core Fusion session. That's not hideous, is it? This week is MUST TRY HARDER.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

YogaWorks For Me

I am such a late starter when it comes to yoga. In all my 28yrs, and worldly travels, I really only started it a couple of months ago, when I randomly decided to try it out after reading an article in the NY Times called the Yoga Manifesto. It was one of the comments in the sections that really spoke to me. It basically was that you are the most important person in the yoga studio, and the most important thing to do in the yoga studio is simply be. It doesn’t matter if you can’t touch your hands the floor, or if your downward dog is more like an arthritic pug than a graceful whippet, but simply turning up, and focusing, is enough. If you think about it, that is incredibly powerful, and yet, takes away all the fear and trepidation a yoga newbie might feel. Simply be.

It is with this mantra that I approach each class with. There are some things I am good at (my upward dog is pretty damn good), and some I am not (anything requiring flexibility, standing on one leg, balance etc), but every single time I go to class, I can feel myself slow down, focus on the moment, focus on my body, my breathing, and simply try. In each class, I can feel myself growing taller, stronger, longer, leaner. I can feel my back strengthen, and the tension in my shoulders release. I can feel my legs literally become straighter, and my balance improve. Some days are good, and some not. Some classes are harder (my Thursday night sessions is a beginner intermediate rather than standard beginner, and it is haaard, but I keep going to push myself), and some easier. Some days will be more rewarding than others. But everytime I go, my body and my mind thank myself for taking me to class and focus my mind on doing something good for my body, even just for an hour.

I go to yogaworks, who have studios in California and New York. They have a range of classes and levels, depending on your ability. I am a solid beginner, and the beginner classes are focused on getting the form and structure of each pose right, now just in the pose, but getting in and out of the pose. YogaWorks focuses working through a number of related poses to build up your capabilities and YogaBlend has more emphasis on moving between poses at a greater speed. YogaBlend definitely gets your heart racing as you move between downward dogs planks, upward dogs, and the like. The instructors are clear in their instructions and offer many modifications for both easier and harder versions of the pose, and although the classes are graded by ability, there is usually a couple of people on each end of the scale. By the end of the class, I’m always feeling challenged and like I’ve worked my body in a very good, beneficial way.

If you had asked me 6mths ago about what I thought of yoga, I would have written it off as a thing that women with too much time on their hands and an excess of flexibility do. Now, it’s become a part of my regular routine and I literally count the hours until I get a chance to stretch back out on my mat and challenge my body and my mind again.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

First Week of Training

Today I completed my first official training run. It was also my first run for a couple of weeks and I have had niggling knee pain for the last couple of days so I wasn't expecting much. I ended up having a pretty nice run, and a much faster pace than normal - yay!!! I ended up running 4.38 miles in 37 mins, or a 9:34 min/mile pace.

I always take my iPhone when I run and it tracks my time and pace against a GPS map using iMapMyRun. I have to admit it's not 100% accurate, and sometimes I look down and apparently I've run right through buildings, but for the most part it is good enough to give me an estimate of how far, and how fast I am running. I'll provide more of an review of it, and any other apps I use later. I used to have a Nike Plus device which I loved because it provided a great visualization of your pace across the whole run. I forgot about it, until I discovered that the iPhone 4 has the app built in, and all you need is a sensor. I rummaged under the bed and found my old running shoes which had my old sensor in there. I could not find any pouch to attach it to my shoe, so I just kind of tucked it into my shoe laces. BAD IDEA!!! It lasted a whole 1 minute and 7 seconds. Oh well.

This week commences my first week of proper training. I am following the Hal Higdon Novice Training Plan, as recommended by Dory. I only have 6 weeks, so I'm having to dive right in. Here's how my plan looks this week:

Monday: Core Fusion and Core Fusion Yoga
Tuesday: 4 mile run
Wednesday: 2 mile run and Core Fusion
Thursday: 4 mile run and yoga
Friday: REST DAY!!!!
Saturday: 6 mile run (eeek!!) and yoga
Sunday: Core Fusion and yoga

I really, really hope I can stick to this. I'm planning on doing my runs first thing in the morning before I go to work, as I find it hard to run after work - I just get so tired then. My other big concern is that I absolutely love, love, going to Core and yoga, and I need to be careful I don't over do it, or I'll just end up fatigued. I spend every Saturday morning in Central Park walking my dog Moose, so I'm planning on doing my long run on the actual race course to get me used to it. I'm dreading those hills!!!

More to come through the week as I attempt to stick to my training plan.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A New Blog, A New Challenge

I find it most ironic that as I sit in on a Saturday night, munching on some candy from Dylan's Candy Bar, resting a sore knee, that I find myself first signing up for a half marathon, and then signing up for a blog to chronicle my journey towards it. I am no stranger to blogging, and have a thriving little beauty blog over at Jolie Laide Girl, but I would definitely say I'm a relative newbie to the whole world of running, fitness, and generally healthy. Okay, scratch the last part. I'm definitely not healthy. I have a mouthful of red licorice as I type.

So here the deal: I am running my first ever half marathon on Oct 2nd, or in 49 days time. That means I have 6 weeks to train for something that takes most people twelve. At the moment, I am running approximately 4 miles a week, as well as working out regularly at Core Fusion and yoga. I have been doing both on a regular basis since May 2010. A fitness newbie, I tell ya.

So, between now and then I have to get my ass literally in shape enough to haul me around Central Park twice. And, as well as that, I also have to go on my honeymoon. This little project of mine might just be bona fide crazy. But, stranger things have happened, and I'm damn well going to give it a good try, and I'll be sure to share every step and mis-step along the way.