Beyond the usual

Running Buddha, Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge

My usual run is four miles at a steady pace.

Sometimes I do a faster three, or a slower five or six, but on a typical day, it’s four – two out and back. I strive for negative splits, each mile faster than the last. But I haven’t focused on overall pace in ages.

In the past couple of months, I’ve added some interval training. So some days I do my steady four and others it’s sprint work, or longer faster bouts, with periods of low intensity to recover. I selected a fat burning plan, rather than one for speed building. That said, it’s reasonable to expect speed gains when you put your newly optimized lungs and legs to the test.

Monica Hargrove being badass.

I haven’t done that.

On my four-milers, I take it easy on purpose. I warm up the first mile, and lock into a comfortable stride for the next three.

But last night I reflected on that.

I’m stronger and more flexible than I’ve been in years. Yet here I am, still doing these slowish/easy runs. I can go faster like I used to. I think I’ll try…

This morning I arrived at the greenway in the same state of mind. Walking toward the start I thought, Every run can’t be conversation pace. And off I went. I wasn’t after a tempo run, but I was going for a push.

My first mile was faster than usual, but still within range for my warm up pace. I locked into a zone and began to kick things up a notch.

Mile two, faster.  In fact, nearly 40 seconds faster than my usual pace for mile two.

Mile three is where I usually slow things down. Typically, I have to concentrate to maintain my pace. If I don’t run negative splits, it’s usually because of the mile three bust. But I kept pushing, and when I heard the Garmin chirp, I’d dropped another 30 seconds. I’d run a minute faster than my usual mile three pace.

By mile four, I decided to take breathers. I pushed the pace but stopped the clock when I needed to rest. That said, I dropped another 50 seconds from the previous split, still a minute faster than my usual pace for mile four.

I felt great! For one, I accomplished what I set out to do. And two, a strong workout feels great when you’re up to it.

Now I’ve got my work cut out for me… I have a new target pace for non-stop runs. Because every run can’t be conversation pace.

#TempleBuilding with Lady Buddha and @PhYINomenal

Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge

Today I had a great conversation with my girl, Sojo of PhYINonmenal.com. She wanted to pick my brain about all things #templebuilding. We discussed everything from how I define it, to how it might look through the decades.

Templebuilding includes a family of practices all geared toward the edification of the mind/body/spirit. There’s no one way to do any of these practices, so I don’t approach it as a singular pathway or approach.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 10.19.33 PMWe talked for nearly an hour and a half. Near the end, she asked me to offer encouragement for newbies.

A key first step for anyone ready to take a more intentional approach to their overall wellness is self-reflection. Ask: what is one small thing you can do each day to develop yourself? What practice will help you honor and polish the divine in you? Jot, draw, or think through things you’ve tried and loved in the past:

Create your own #DailyDivinty. A couple of things you can commit to for a short amount of time every day – and commitment is the word! It’s going to be important to you. And you know based on your own inner wisdom what it is that will help push you forward. …

Whatever it is you know you have to do {read a holy book, watch the sunrise, journal, etc), incorporate that on purpose and everything else starts to come naturally.

Go to PhYINomenal.com to find the chat and explore more ways to practice self care in your daily life.

Tune In

sickness, Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge

I have DVD programs for cardio, strength training, and yoga, and I’ve relied on these for years. On running days, I wake up and I jog the same trail, albeit different distances, on a regular basis. There are good reasons to avoid the same routines and paths, but I embrace the repetition.

Today was a strength day, so I whipped out my barbell set and selected a DVD from my strength program. The workout was surprisingly easy. When I am well, I can finish the hour-long program in an hour.  I compare that to two days ago, when I was in the early stages of recovering from a cold. Fatigued, and probably a little behind on calories, I had to stop every 5-10 minutes for a short break. Tuesday’s hour-long workout took more like 75 minutes.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 6.03.55 PMI like doing familiar routines because it allows me to objectively assess how I’m doing that day. Am I phoning it in, or am I doing my best, even though my performance is lacking? Did I eat enough, did I eat the right foods? Am I doing too much? Should I stretch or rest tomorrow because my body needs a break?

I can ask myself these questions because the routines leave mental space available for contemplation. I think it’s important to tune in daily and assess how you’re doing – mentally, physically, and in all areas really. Since I typically exercise early in the day, I can adjust my plans based on what I’m discovering in my early morning movement.

Do I ever bring in new programs/routes? Yes, whenever it’s time! After all, the point of the sameness is listening to what my body needs. And every once in a while, it asks for something new.

Winter Run: A Moving Meditation

Personal Narrative, Temple Building

January 5, 2016 | 7:10 am.

motivating
I pull up to the trailhead, pleased it’s not crowded.

Understatement. Only one other car is here.

It’s cold this morning, so I get it. It’s been unseasonably warm and the past couple of days Winter took over, as is her right to do. But it’s damn cold. My weather app says 27º. Windchill 19º.

I ran yesterday, similarly dressed in thermals and such. I had to ignore the cold to start. Colder now, but I really want these miles, so here I am. Me and one other brave soul.

It’s daybreak. Sunrise is 30 minutes away. The sky is clear. I see stars and a lovely crescent moon. I try to snap a picture, but the camera on my phone hasn’t cooperated in weeks, and the shots are unusable.

weatherI gather myself and get out the car. I lock the door, slip the key in my pocket, stride to the trailhead. There is no time to dawdle. My stride warms to slow jog as I approach my traditional starting point. It’s a golden rod mile marker a few yards from the entrance. I always begin there. When I reach the slim post, I press Blue’s Garmin. It chirps and buzzes and I’m off.

Immediately I feel the wind. I know if I can make it past the first five minutes, I will be warm enough, encouraged enough to continue. My face is uncovered and the skull cap with my long red locks protruding seems insufficient. I zip up my jacket, which I usually find uncomfortable at the neck, but today it’s fine. I just need to stay warm. And although I don’t appreciate the breeze, I’m not experiencing cold in a truly unpleasant way. It’s just cold.

My feet strike the boardwalk. It creaks, irritated to be touched on this cold morning. It protests, loosening. It will be quieter for the  next runner.

And I am around the first bend. The guard rails have frost and I hear the creek rushing under me. I keep running, faster than normal for my first mile, because I just need to get warm. There’s a magic point where your core is warm, and the thermal top and jacket contain that heat so some of it can move to your outer limbs. I’m running for that moment. It’s not far now.

And here I am. It’s a half mile, a little more than five minutes in. I no longer notice the wind. This pace seems sustainable, but I will not push it. I’ll see how long I last. I know I can do three miles; 1.5 out and back, but I’d like to go a litter farther. Hit 3.2 maybe. I’ll decide at the turn around. I was tired by then yesterday.

Now I’m crossing the swamp. It is crusted over with a thin layer of ice. No ducks will be in that water today. I know underneath it is not frozen. It’s not that cold after all.

I’m on the concrete going over another bridge. This one brings me closer to the one mile marker. I like starting at the golden rod mile marker because between here and there it’s one mile. I hear the creek under this bridge, but I don’t look down. I don’t want to break my stride and the sun isn’t up yet anyway.

jacketSometimes I pass runners coming in as I’m going out. Sometimes they pass me, going faster but in my same direction. Right now I’m still alone. I’m warmer, although my hands have not benefited yet. My thumbs in particular hurt. All of my other fingers just feel cold, but I’m grateful the circulation is going well in my legs. My feet are cold, but only my toes are numb. A vast improvement over the time I could barely feel my feet below my ankles. I know my feet are here and working fine.

Ha. The bunnies are hungry. Three big ones eat breakfast on my right. I speak as I always do when I pass them. One runs closer to the forest. The others remain.

Approaching another bridge now. This one goes up and then under the highway, beside the creek. I hear the first bird of the morning. He’s checking to see who’s awake. In warmer weather, the morning meeting would already be underway. It’s nearly 7:30. Sunrise is imminent. I don’t hear a response and he calls out once again.

I’m under the overpass and running up the slight incline. I’m nearly to the turn around. I believe I am maintaining pace. My energy hasn’t flagged so that’s a good sign.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 11.17.26 PMThere’s a kindred spirit – an older woman I think. Thick fluffy hair bounces underneath her hat. She has on black running tights like me. She leans into her run. I wonder if she started from the other side and is on her first stretch, or if she started on my side and is on the way back.

Now my hands are warm. I will go to 1.60 and turn around. There is a green mile marker right around there. When I reach it, I tap it and try not to break stride as I make the u-turn. I’m halfway home already.

I pass underneath a wintered canopy. Is it a canopy if the trees are leafless? And now I’m back at the underpass. I see the creek, but I don’t hear it this time. I tackle the hill back to the straightaway. I spy another bunny.  He’s big like the others but he isn’t still. He’s running – or darting is probably more accurate. I’m concentrating because any moment now I’ll hear the chirp-buzz signaling I’ve reached two miles. Then I’ll only have a mile and change left to go.

And there it is. Chirp-buzz.

I still feel good: I’m warm, and my pace feels solid. My toes are slightly numb, but nothing I mind. My hands are sweating now so I pull off my gloves and stuff them in my left pocket. I know they’ll cool off soon so, I’ll don the gloves again then. I unzip my jacket, just a tad. Yes, I’m really that warm. Not hot, but that zipper is getting in the way.

On I run.

Passing frosty trees on my left, I cross the next bridge. Less than a mile to go now. I notice the frost-dusted guard rails saving me from a long tumble into the noisy creek below. I can’t help myself this time. I reach out and brush the top. Some of the frosty snow (snowy frost?) falls to the ground. The rusting rail gives way to wood and then nothing but the boardwalk.

I’m back to the swamp. That layer of ice remains on the water, but now I look down and see newly wet paw prints on the boardwalk. They seem to be heading toward me but cross to the other side. I immediately think these are raccoon prints, although I’ve never seen racoons here. They probably belong to the countless squirrels who live here.

I pass another runner. I’ve seen this man before. I’m pretty sure he’s just starting. We wave.  I smile. This is my tribe.

This boardwalk is noisy, resisting as the first one did. It’s cold and does not want to be bothered. It will warm up in a few hours. Maybe it will be in a better mood then.

frostI am near the home stretch. I speed up, excited to hear the birds. They are nearly a mile away from the early bird’s podium, but the morning meetings are going strong now. Birds are laughing and catching up on the night’s events, or so it sounds to me. I smile wondering how long they will chatter.

I continue to press, knowing the end is near. This pace is a little challenging, but I’m grateful I’m not wheezing. Keeping my chest insulated makes running in the cold a lot more pleasant, numb toes aside.

I approach the last bridge, which was also the first one. I round the corner and stride down to the boardwalk. As I hit the homestretch mile marker, I begin the countdown. When I’m fast, I can make it from here to the first golden rod marker by zero, but today I am not fast.

One hundred, 99, 98… I count while my feel tap tap in cadence.

I’m going faster than I thought. I’m nearly there when I notice wetness around my face. Is my hair wet? I can tell I will get to zero before I get to the final post, but I won’t have much left to go.

When I hit zero, I count down again, this time from ten. That feels ambitious still, but I really am close. Just after the second zero, I cross the finish line and press the button to stop the Garmin. I save the run.

I stretch and right now I am so proud of myself. There’s still only one other car out here. Today, I have won.

SO much win

Can putting down your smartphone make you smarter?

Temple Building

I often advocate for reflection. Turn off the 24-hour news cycle, read a book, journal, pray. Eliminate incessant noise so you can hear your own thoughts.

Reflection helps you make sense of that which has already transpired, and imagine and prepare for what is yet to come. It’s not time consuming to reflect, but it does require deliberate acts.

Research suggests that our brains need downtime and that people have some of their most creative ideas when they’re bored. ~Sherri Graslie for All Things Considered.

I’m not sure it’s always boredom, as many creatives report having great ideas when they are engaged in rote activities. The key, ultimately, is having the mental space available for something else.

iphone-37856_640Sherri Graslie reports one way to clear the mental clutter is by putting down your smartphone.  But what happens when the smartphone is out of your hands? That’s when the deliberateness I mentioned above comes into play. Will you spend the time on another device, or will you engage with the world differently?

Read or listen to Graslie’s piece here.

Related:
On Reading and Pondering Deeply.

Clement wins

Temple Building

I fancy myself a runner. Or a jogger, as the case may be.  As a general rule, I save my miles for clement weather. Put simply, I do not run in the cold. Pish posh on the mildness of Georgia winters; you can let your chest wheeze for an after inhaling frigid air. There are exceptions to my no winter running rule, but more often than not, I hang up my running shoes in November, and pull them out again around March.

I spend the intervening months exercising with a DVD program. When I travel, I take it along. Unless I forget, which is the case at present. En route to the airport yesterday, I realized I packed everything I needed to do PiYo except the PiYo DVDs. Massive side eye to me.

There was no turning back at that point in the journey, and with my destination’s forecast promising sunshine and nice temps, I wondered if I might not run after all.

I’ll skip the part about why I didn’t run this morning, and jump right to the good news: I ran today! And it was challenging, and I had to stop often because of runner’s itch, which sucks. A lot. And blah blah blah, eventually, I hit my 2-mile goal! On a treadmill, no less.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 9.27.47 PM

I’m already sore, which is not happy-making. But I am very pleased, which is! The first of spring remains my official target to resume a running regimen, but it’s nice to have unexpected wins.

Ending the year strong

Temple Building

It’s not winter yet, but Mother Nature has been pushing us to get ready for it. The days are noticeably shorter and unseasonably cold. The weather, along with my recent adventure, has put me in the mood to hibernate. Most mornings (and early evenings), I just want to swaddle myself in a ball and sleep. It’s starting to impact my exercise regimen.

From March to October, I jump out of bed before dawn, ready to log a few of the 40-50 miles I jog each month. I tweak my mileage to allow time for strength training with a barbell and plates. But all of this happens in the warm weather.

Once we’ve entered true fall in north Georgia, I put away the running shoes and opt for indoor cardio. My program of choice has long been Beachbody’s TurboFire. It mixes long, intensive workouts with short, high intensity interval training and strength training with resistance bands. There’s a lot of jumping up and down.

I believe in listening to my body. But lately, when I’ve asked my body to get ready for plyometrics, it has responded with some version of chile please. I haven’t had much of a counter offer, so there I’ve been, snuggled under the cover dozing, instead of running or jumping.

My body seems ready to try something high energy, but low impact, with a lot of stretching. I’ve considered Bikram yoga, for instance. But that involves traveling somewhere, and I don’t like to spend much time in transit for exercise. Plus, despite the generally good reviews, I’ve never really “felt” yoga as exercise. Even though, truth be told, I sometimes naturally perform elements of the sun salutation, just because some of the poses feel organic. So I’m not a yogi, and although I’ve taken a couple of  Pilates classes, it never stuck as part of a regular routine.

Enter, PiYo.

PiYo schedule and DVDs.
PiYo schedule and DVDs.

I shunned this the first couple of times I heard of it namely because of my lukewarm feelings about Pilates and yoga, the main elements of the program. It supposedly takes the best of these two systems and combines them into a high energy, low impact, strength- and flexibility-enhancing program. Sounds like just what the doctor ordered. Zerlina and Lurie, two people I engage with on Twitter, have raved about it. So I’ve decided to give it a shot.

It’s an 8-week program, with workouts 6 days a week. No equipment is required, and I love that, especially given my travel schedule. I completed the first workout today, which was more instructional than anything else, but it was a promising start.

I feel that good way I feel when my blood is moving as it should.

Autumnal Equinox 2014

Personal Narrative, Temple Building

The name gazelle comes from the Arabic word Ghazal which means “elegant and quick.” ~Wikipedia

Natalie is a gazelle.

I see her occasionally during my greenway runs and I always smile. She’s beautiful. She’s powerful. Elegant and quick. On the greenway, her long dark hair is always pulled back, revealing her serene yet happy face. And by the way, she runs marathons. Can you imagine?

Whenever I see her it’s the same… she smiles and waves and shows not a whisper of being winded. Yet she’s running, not jogging. Cheerful just the same.

That’s beauty. That’s inspiration.

I imagine I’m that way from time to time: graceful, cheerful, powerful. Not as often as I’d like, however, and certainly not while running. That’s one of my goals – to be a gazelle when I run. I’m grateful for Natalie’s presence on the greenway.

georgia-305935_640

Fall Renewal

So tomorrow is the first day of autumn and I love beginnings. Mornings, Mondays, new moons, new years, you name it. So a new season fits nicely into the mix, and the first day of autumn it’s the perfect time for purposeful renewal.

Lately I’ve been thinking about (and encountering) the Four Agreements and I’ve been journaling a bit about gratitude. So rather than allowing this to be happenstance, I’d like to spend the next month or so focusing on both of these, and incorporating them as a daily practice.

When I say a daily practice, I mean mindfully choosing thoughts, words and deeds that align with the agreements and with gratitude.

Says Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements:

Every letter, every word in each language is an agreement…. As children, we didn’t have the opportunity to choose our beliefs, but we agreed with the information that was passed to us from the dream of the planet via other humans. The outside dream may hook our attention, but if we don’t agree, we don’t store that information. As soon as we agree, we believe it, and this is called faith. To have faith is to believe unconditionally.

Too much of the time, we go through life allowing it to happen to us, while we mindlessly react. But the Four Agreements reminds us to take responsibility and be a co-creator in our experience of the world. Rather than accepting every word or thought you hear, take some time to reflect. Do you agree? Do you accept? How does this fit with the life you’d like to lead?

You don’t have to agree with every opinion you encounter. You don’t have to accept someone else’s reality as your own. You can create new agreements, moment by moment. Word by word.

As a refresher, the Four Agreements are:

  • Be impeccable with your word
  • Don’t take anything personally
  • Don’t make assumptions
  • Always do your best.

This week, I’m planning to reread the beginning of The Four Agreements, and perhaps write about what I’m reading. I will also continue journaling about gratitude.

What, if anything did you do to mark the beginning of fall? What are your intentions for the season and the rest of the year?

About those kettlebells…

Temple Building

Nearly two weeks ago, I asked about kettlebells. Folks on Twitter, Facebook and my blog responded, and everyone who did had something good to say.

  • It’s fun (men and women).
  • It’s a good workout (men and women).
  • It feels more feminine to me (women).

Out running errands around that time, I spotted a Pilates studio. Kettlebells practically leapt from their signage, and I smiled at the synchronicity. Once home, a quick search brought me to their website, and a phone call led me to their studio this morning.

The studio offers a one-on-one kettlebell fundamentals class. It’s designed to get you ready to join their group kettlebell classes, but I wanted some in-person training on technique for at home workouts as well. YouTube told me there are a lot of interesting exercises one can do with a kettlebell, and common sense told me there are just as many interesting ways to injure yourself.

My instructor was Ingrid, a tall, slim woman with long dark hair. She was friendly and very focused on coaching me in the proper technique. I performed a range of exercises for upper and lower body incorporating pulling and pushing motions, and a swing. The swing she tells often takes weeks or even months to perfect, and she complimented me several times during the session on my form.

She especially made note of the way I didn’t hunch over for various poses where your chest is out and shoulders are wide. That’s something I’ve grown into through a combination of dance and working on moving with grace. I know for sure I used to hunch and shrink. “You’ll advance very quickly,” she said more than once.

Here’s Studio Lotus. This is their Pilates equipment. The kettlebell training was in another room.

Although my ultimate goal is to find more at-home workouts, I do plan to visit the studio for group classes when my travel schedule allows. I can tell I got a good workout today, and I’m sure I’ll have even more evidence (hello fatigued muscles) by tomorrow.

What about kettlebells?

Temple Building
My namesake looking strong and fit.

I’m thinking about kettlebells. I heard of them long ago, but when I saw videos of folks kettlebell routines, I was never moved nor motivated to try them.

A few years have passed and like most things other than liver, I’m reconsidering. I enjoy the building strength aspect of strength training, and although my current barbell based program is fine, and sometimes even fun, I want something new.

One of my friends has recently begun kettlebells. What about you? Have you ever tried them? Did you like them? Why, or why not? Leave me a message in the comments…