7, 8, 9…

Running Buddha, Sub 60 10k, Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge

In 2014, I began a running plan via my RunKeeper app. It’s a fat burning plan, and alternates intervals with steady runs to increase your fitness level. The app features several such plans for goals like run a 5k (3.1 miles), run a 5k in less than 30 minutes, and so on. Although I don’t enter races, I run 5ks and a rare 10k (6.2 miles), as part of a regular exercise regimen.

While perusing the plans back then, I noticed a 7-mile training run included to build endurance for a 5k. At that point I was a consistent 4-mile runner and 7 miles seemed daunting. It was a little too far outside my comfort zone, and after all, I was just a casual runner. The goal and the fear intrigued me, though. I filed it in the back of my mind to target later and stuck to the simpler fat burning plan.

Fast forward to 2016. One day, more or less due to happenstance than planning, I ran 7 miles! And then I did it again on purpose which was actually harder to do! After 7, the new uncomfortable, too-far-out-there goal I secretly filed away was 10. One day, I’ll run 10 miles. (I have zero or less than zero interest in training for a half or whole marathon, by the way, so don’t get any ideas). Anywho, 10 gives me the same jitters 7 did a couple of years ago, and I had no plans to hit it soon.

Sanya Richards-Ross

This weekend, I signed up for a new training plan via RunKeeper. Based on my current fitness and mental readiness for challenge, I selected a sub 60min 10k. This means running just over 6.2 miles in under an hour. It’s definitely doable, but unlike past running ventures, it will take actual training, rather than casual effort.

Before signing up, I skimmed the plan and noticed an 8-mile run in the mix. I felt the familiar tension, but brushed it off because of the two 7s under my belt. I locked in the plan and completed my first run (4 miles) on Sunday.

But today, while looking at the run calendar to confirm date of said 8-mile run, I blinked, observing there was much more in the offing. This 16-week plan starts off comfortably, but quickly ramps up to regular long runs – something I’ve never done with any consistency. There are two 7-milers on tap, and after a few weeks, not one but two 8-milers, two 9-milers, and shock of all shocks, yes a 10-miler.

I said it was time for a challenge. Wow. Here it is.

In progress

Running Buddha, Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge
Ajee’ Wilson

Today I ran another 4 miler. I don’t generally run two days in a row, but rain is forecast for tomorrow, so I had to get it in.

I had modest goals – namely maintaining yesterday’s performance with the addition of a slightly faster warm up mile.

To my surprise and delight, I crushed it.

I pushed the warm up mile and was progressively faster on all miles thereafter. I even dropped my average pace by 30 seconds.  That’s pretty shocking, and in truth, I hit my target. As in, what I expected to be doing after a couple of weeks of effort.

Next steps? Keeping this up long term, and not just as a quick trick a couple of days here and there. I’m still taking breathers on mile four, so I’ll also plan to build endurance for speedier runs.

I’m excited to see my mind and body work together to create an outcome. This is one of the things I most appreciate about running. It shows me I can visualize and enact things in the real world.

Now to apply this to projects in progress…

—-

Read about Ajee’ at the 2014 Penn Relays here.

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.

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

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.

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.

Free write

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April

I’ve set a timer for 5 minutes and I’m just typing stream of consciousness.

I had so many plans when I woke up, and I’ve been working through them, but, well, you know how it goes sometimes. A few interruptions here, a fire to put out there, and it seems there’s been a lot of busyness, but not as much business.

That’s fine. I can still check a few items off my list and create a clear plan of action for tomorrow based on what I accomplished today. And really, that’s the best you can do on any given day. Since the fourth agreement is “always do your best,” I can close out the work day in peace and look forward to a productive day tomorrow.

Me & Blue, after my 1st run in 2013.
Me & Blue, after my 1st run in 2013.

Speaking of tomorrow, I’m excited because I think time and weather are on my side. If I’m correct, I will run my first miles of 2014! I’ve missed running. And although I need a new pair of running shoes (I never really bonded with the old ones), it’ll be so lovely to get outside and get fresh air. Running is one of my favorite forms of exercise for many reasons, and I have some new goals/approaches in store for the running season. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Time up!

Can’t build your temple without laying bricks

Temple Building

Today was a cardio day, but yesterday was weights.

I got down.

Weight lifting is interesting for me. On the one hand, I love seeing progress. I can lift the weight with less effort as time goes on and see real strength. My muscles get sculpted. I lift and carry heavy groceries in a single bound.

On the other hand, it’s hard for me to get psyched up to do it. A run in the early morning? No problem. My favorite aerobic workout before sunrise? No sweat. Weightlifting, however, requires some mental gymnastics to get motivated.

But yesterday? Crushed.

I do a full body workout with a barbell and plates. Ten tracks including warm up, squats, chest, back, biceps, triceps, lunges, shoulders, abs and cool down.

When I first started the program (Les Mills Pump), I wasn’t on the road, so I was able to follow it as outlined each day. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been traveling. That and other circumstances as of late led me to take it easy with my workouts. I found what amounts to a comfortable challenge for each track and stuck with it. For weeks.

In the past couple of weeks I decided if I was going to hang out at these easier weights, I’d really focus on form, and I have. But it was time for more.

Yesterday I felt energized, motivated, and ready for a challenge. It reflects an overall mood I’ve been in the past few months – one of action and forward motion. I’ve not yet blogged about my theme for 2014 (see 2013, 2011) but it definitely incorporates movement. I’ve started new projects and made strides in new areas.

And so yesterday, when it was time to get that barbell out, I knew it was also time to kick it up a notch. I increased weights on all working tracks. I worked harder than I have in a long time and it felt great! I was proud of myself all day and flexed my muscles in every mirror.

One of my favorite things about exercising is learning the lessons my body teaches. Yesterday’s lesson? If you keep doing the same things, you’ll find yourself in the same place. Progress requires effort. Lay down those bricks and build that temple.

When you become stuck in a rut
of apathy, your life stagnates,
leading to setbacks.
~Daisaku Ikeda

On Holding Back

Temple Building

Today’s run surprised me. It had been over a week since my last 4-mile run. Generally speaking, a couple of rest days are good for me. But too many means I start to lose a level of fitness.

It’s not to say I forewent exercise completely. In addition to rest days, I had a couple of bouts of weather-induced indoor aerobics. I also threw two short runs in the mix. In a hotel and pressed for time two mornings in a row, the treadmill beckoned. I’ve mentioned more than once how much I enjoy outdoor running and dislike treadmills, but there was no safe place to run nearby. It was the ‘mill or nothing.

No Bueno
Let’s get right to it and say both of those runs sucked. I never felt as though I could get a good breathing rhythm. I never locked into an ideal stride. I just wasn’t comfortable. Both days, two miles of running felt like five or six miles worth of work.

The past couple of mornings, I looked forward to getting back outside. Yesterday, was a disappointment. Mild fall temps were on my side, but the pouring rain was not. I decided to get on with the remainder of my day, foregoing exercise altogether.

The Greenway this morning.
The Greenway this morning.

Doubting Thomasina
Today, it was cooler than ideal, but clear, and I was determined to go get my miles. But get this: I was worried. Because my recent runs were short and difficult, I wondered if I had what it took to eek out my mileage. Some Saturdays I toy with the idea of a “long run” (five miles or more), but today my standard four felt like a stretch.

I wondered just how long it would take me to finish. How would I feel at the halfway point? Would I have to walk it out for large stretches of the trail? Would I just stop at a mile and turn around? The questions loomed. This level of uncertainty about a run is unusual for me, but there it was. I stalled a bit, and went out anyway.

When I got to the Greenway, I could tell immediately the run was going to go well after all. I easily hit my warm up pace and found a comfortable stride within the first 1/2 mile. It felt nice to open up and push the tempo. Being outdoors again was glorious, despite the cool air. Despite the damp leaves clinging to the trail.

I felt great, like the in shape runner I am.

Getting up to Snuff
I’ve run intervals a few times this year. Before now, I’d never tried them out. It’s true they help with speed, and I’ve come to realize they build my confidence as well. I know I’m reasonably fast for super short distances – I was a sprinter in my day. A few years at 3+ miles per run, I’ve now built some endurance, but often I’m scared to push my pace. I simply don’t want to peter out.

But intervals are designed for you to push, then rest. And really, I’m not racing anyone. I’m building my own fitness. Who cares if I need to rest at various points during my run anyway, intervals or not? And just because I got comfortable holding a steady pace at four miles, didn’t mean I needed to remain comfortable. That can easily lead to stagnation. And to some degree, it had.

Movie Lessons
In recent runs, I’ve found myself thinking about all of this while also mulling a scene from Gattaca (spoiler alert). In it, brothers Anton and Vincent are swimming. Ever since they were children, they tested each other to see who had the endurance to swim the farthest in open waters. Anton always won.

An older wiser Vincent finally stopped living down to everyone else’s expectations, and resolved to give life his all. In a confrontation between the two, they decide to swim one last time. Right when Vincent would’ve cried mercy, he didn’t. This time, Anton was the one who tapped out. He screamed at Vincent demanding to know how he was accomplishing this. How was he pushing beyond well-established boundaries? Said Vincent,

I never saved anything for the swim back.

Vincent gave it his all. He held nothing back. He learned to overcome his limiting beliefs about himself. In the end, he was victorious.

Holding Back
Often, I hold back when running. I get comfortable with a certain pace. Knowing I can push it, but will have to recover later, I don’t take chances. Steady state. But with the introduction of intervals, I saw my fitness increasing, and it became easier for me to see what would happen if I push it. I’d go faster! And yes, I may have to rest a bit, but I’d go faster for longer the next time.

So today, out on the open path, no music, no pressure, just me, I ran. And when it felt good, I ran faster. And when I thought I’d been running a good distance at a good pace, I checked in. Do I really need to rest right now, or am I holding back? And I’d rest or run accordingly.

It was a great run. Much faster than usual the first two miles, and faster in stretches toward the end. I ran my fastest overall pace for this distance.

I surprised myself. I didn’t hold back. The race was only with myself, and I won.