Sunday, January 30, 2011

Core Performance

Here is a very informative website.  Lots of great info on exercise, nutrition, and health.  The recipe blog has some good stuff on it.  I've also been using their dynamic warm up routines (instead of just stretching) so my IT bands and misc. joints are not protesting after longer running and cycling sessions:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Up at the Crack

Good morning sports fans.  Yes, it is 6:45am right now Saturday morning and my training session (repeat hill runs, aka "torture") is out of the way.  For those of you who have every intention of working out in the morning, but just cannot bring yourself to emerge from your nice toasty bed, here is my secret:  Adopt a geriatric dog from the pound with absolutely no bladder control.  That 4:30am warning bark will propel you out of bed, lest you would like to suffer the consequences.  And that blast of arctic air will ensure that you are too wide awake to go back to bed, so may as well do something constructive. 

But Lexie (the dog) is also a great training partner. She pushes me to run faster than I have been able to run before. She doesn't mind slowing down for me. Now if she would just stop sniffing fire hydrants and chasing squirrels.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Getting "In Gear"

"Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use." Charles M. Schulz

So, where was I?  I was last lamenting about the slow but steady development of my swimming skills.  But hey, at least I knew how to ride a bike!  I had bought a hybrid the previous summer—my first bicycle in at least 20 years.  My last bicycle was a three speed or maybe ten speed, who knows because I only rode in one gear and the rest were kind of a waste. Oh and it had a very uncomfortable seat.  I was amazed how bikes have evolved over the last 20 years.  This baby had 18 gears and I could not believe now easy it was to pedal!  And the seat was big enough for two!  I was so proud of my bike until I showed my brother.   His eyes grew wide and asked, “You’re going to do a triathlon on that thing???”  And I believe his next words were that all I needed was a basket and bell for it and I could probably catch Toto.  What are younger brothers for?  I did not let my enthusiasm waver.  Truth be known, I didn’t even know if I could sustain a ride on a bike with my weight and my back.   And to be in shape to ride 15 miles, I had to ride my bike several times a week.  But it was now winter so I was banished to the basement, or in our house, the dungeon.  Most people, even the most avid triathletes would rather stick a needle in their eye than ride on a trainer.  But it’s what you do if you live in New England.  The alternative is biking in frigid temperatures on ice and snow.  The dungeon it was.  

The concept of an actual training plan was not something I thought about initially.  I would pretty much swim, bike, and run when I wanted for as long or as little as I wanted.  I’ve become much more regimented now, but my first year, I was just trying to work up to the distance of a sprint triathlon for each individual sport. More than anything, I was having fun.  And I was losing weight and feeling fit again. As I think about it now, I had never embraced the Zen of running, in fact, I disliked it especially when I was younger, I could barely swim, and I could take or leave cycling.  But stringing all three of these sports together is like magic….it’s as if it is an entirely different sport.  The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.  So it was time to make it real.  Around February, many races start opening up on-line registration.  Some open sooner, some later, but I had specific requirements.  I was looking for a sprint distance (which is a misnomer) that was relatively close (2 hr drive) to Providence.  I found one in May and YAY, the swim was only 250 yards!!  Oh, but it was in a pool.  Well that would have to do.  It fit the criteria of being close enough to home, early enough in the season to get me motivated, and it was a relatively short race.  I went to the website and went through the registration process, asking how old I was, what category did I want to compete in, did I agree to waive the right to sue them if I keeled over….etc.  They wanted to know what was my fastest time for a 250 yard swim and never having really timed myself and not wanting to be put in a wave with anyone who was fast, I put 45 minutes.  Just to give you an idea, triathletes swimming full triathlons (2.4 miles) can complete the swim in about an hour or so.  The suggested time was so outrageous that the race director wrote to me and said, “Okay, come on, have a little faith here, it’s not going to take you 45 minutes to swim 250 yards, try more like 10 minutes.”  So I settled (uncomfortably) for 15 minutes.  Then I hit pay and holy sh*t, it was now very real.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Day After....

This little clip made me laugh. You can substitute "Triathlon" for "Marathon". Thanks to my Tri-Buddy, Michelle.

Monday, January 24, 2011


"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu
Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)

Author, before journey

I know this blog might get a little confusing. Bear with me. Some of my blog will be about the here and now (e.g., my current day training progress) and some will chronicle my tri journey. Today I’ll continue to talk about the preparation leading up to my first triathlon in June 2009. Last week I’m sure I left everyone in suspense about how I would learn to swim. As I said, I was pretty much cooked without swim lessons. But now, instead of being as inconspicuous as possible as I slunk from the locker room into the pool each session, I had to meet someone on the deck of the pool, stand there to discuss strategy, and then have them critique every muscle movement and mistake by yelling (not in a mean way of course) across the pool as I swam in my lane. Could I have had *any* more attention drawn to me and my very nonswimmer-like 200+ pound physique flailing in the water???? Ugh. But you know what—who cares?? Did anyone there really care? Was anyone really paying attention to me? And if they were paying attention or had any negative thoughts, did it affect me directly?  Of course not, and  I was there to learn to swim...period. Do you think anyone is sitting at home now right now thinking, “Wow, I remember back in the winter of 2009 I saw an overweight woman taking swim lessons at the Y.” Really now? If there is one thing I can impress upon my audience, it would be to not let anyone one else’s perceived (or real) reaction interfere with you doing something you really want to do.

I met weekly with Jacki, a swim instructor who would teach me the fundamentals and mechanics of swimming. It was so much to think about. Face in the water—yes I had to—turning it just enough for my mouth to be above the surface, lead with my hips, keep my legs straight and kick from the hips, lead with the elbow and keep it high, thrust my hand in the water like I’m aiming for a mail slot, rotate my body so that I’m not moving through the water like a flat bottomed boat. There was so much to think about that did not feel intuitive or natural in any way….the countless drills of swimming on my side with one arm extended and only being able to come up for air by rotating my hips…and the countless gallons of chlorinated water that I swallowed trying to learn these drills. Three strokes and then come up for air. It seemed like an eternity underwater and I would panic and gasp for air. But each week, I could swim further and further (still having to stop periodically) and most important I felt more comfortable in the water. And I noticed something that I had never experienced before. The more I swam, the more weight I lost. I still had to follow WW, but the weight was coming off easier than ever—in my late forties, at a time where weight loss is incredibly difficult because of fluctuating estrogen levels. (I’ve learned to love to swim, in fact it’s my favorite of the three legs and it continues to keep my metabolism revved and efficient.) OK, great, one sport down, but there were two others to contend with.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Resetting My Clock

Just finished a 5am cycling workout.  Kept thinking how good I was going to feel about it later.  For right now, need coffee desperately.  More later.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Proud to be a “Slow Fat Triathlete”

So the “off season” has officially ended this week and I am back in the groove of training for my June 70.3 race. (70.3 = 1.2 mile swim + 56 mile bike + 13.1 mile run). I have shifted from offseason whining about missing triathlon training to in season whining about my aching body. If you had told me a few years ago that I’d be able to sustain this kind of punishment, I would have bet my life that you were crazy. But never say never….I have always wanted to do a triathlon, but it would be a fleeting moment and I’d think, yeah, and you always wanted to be in the Olympics too and win the Nobel Prize. I had a friend during internship that came into my office one Monday and showed me pictures of herself completing a triathlon and she actually was standing on two feet and did not appear to be in distress, in fact she was beaming! She told me of course I could do one—that they are all different distances and skill levels and it was one of the most fun things she had ever done. I thought hmm, maybe I’ll set a goal to do one by 45 (I was around 40 at the time). That’s about all the thought I gave to it. And then the “Moment of Truth” emerged (see my last post). So what does an academic do when they want to embark upon a new journey? They READ about it. Read and read and read and read. I searched on Amazon, one of my favorite pastimes, and bought a few “how to” books, but then one title really caught my eye.
It was called, “Slow, Fat Triathlete,” by Jayne Williams. Jayne’s philosophy is simple….don’t wait to lose x number of pounds or attain a perfectly toned body to train for triathlon….quite the opposite…start training right now, today with the body you have and adjust your training program. That brilliant concept had never crossed my mind. Well ok, let’s figure out how to adjust the program for 215 lb 48 year old who had not lifted a finger or even as much as twitched a muscle for the past several years. Jayne also suggests that nothing motivates you to train like registering for a race. As I embraced the idea of registering for a triathlon, I then reminded myself, “Oh wait, you can’t swim.” I could keep myself above water and inch forward but I looked like a cross between a drowning water polo player and a tired dog. Lots of random splashing and kicking, but not a whole lot of forward movement. I would shoot for a triathlon in the spring but my first race should be a 5K. I registered for the CVS 5K in September of and about 7000 other people. It was a start.

We had to put down our fastest 5K time and since I didn’t have one, I was herded in the back of the pack with the other infinity 5Kers. By the time the gun went off for our wave, about fifteen minutes into the race, the frontrunners were crossing the finish line. Fifteen minutes to run three miles?????? I would be lucky to run one mile in fifteen minutes. Well, run is a gross exaggeration. I walked the entire race and noted that even as I was walking as fast as I possibly could, other walkers were flying past me. Fifty three minutes later, I crossed the finish line. But I crossed it! And there was nowhere to go but up. I came home and had to take a nap, I was so exhausted. Every muscle and joint from the waist down was screaming and my head was throbbing. Where was that runner’s high? Ugh, even my endorphins were dead. But I did my first 5K!!!!! And now just had to think about adding minor details of the swim and bike.

My next step was to join Weight Watchers to lighten my load, so to speak.  I also started going to the local Y and finally worked up enough nerve to first, wear a bathing suit (something I had not done in about 10 years) and second, try to make it across the 25 yard pool.  The first time I tried, I was able to make it across back and forth for a grand total of 50 yards! I thought my arms were going to fall off. But I was encouraged that I could even make it across. I would go weekly and each time try to add another 25 yards. But after making it up to about 200 yards, I realized doggy paddling was just not going to cut it. My arms were flailing, my body was more vertical than horizontal and my head was way above the surface of the water. (That is called maximum drag in tri lingo. Drag=slow) And there was no way I was sticking my face in the water. Because then I’d have to figure out how to breathe AND move my arms at the same time. Even though I was in a 25 yard pool with lifeguards, I was afraid I would drown. And if I felt I could drown in a pool, what would I do in the open water. I desperately needed swim lessons….

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Moment of Truth

“I’mmmmmmm fif-tay! Fifty years old..... I like to kick....and stretch.....and KEEEK!  Cuz I'm fifty!!!”
Sally O’Mally (Molly Shannon) Saturday Night Live

Interestingly, I had always defined myself as an athlete—in high school I was a champion track and field jock and volleyball player, and during most of my twenties and thirties I was in decent shape, earning a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and going on to become an instructor. But then I started graduate school and made little time for anything except school. During my post-doc, and later faculty appointments, “I just don’t have the time” became my mantra. Although this loss of identity was confounding to me I chose to ignore it. Fast forward….my daughter was born in 2005. Eating pounds of Raisinettes made those late night feedings more bearable. But you know, I’m going to stop right there, as I can’t blame the stress of motherhood either on my weight gain—the reality was that I had been overweight for a good deal of my adult life and all I needed was a stressor or reason to eat. Did I think that my life would be stress-free at some point and that’s when I could finally get healthy? Forty-five approached and passed and so did a few more years. Well, they say fifty is just a number. In the world of bicycling, we don’t say, oh I just signed up for a fifty miler,” we say, “I just signed up for a half-century.” Fifty = half–century. Whoa. Yes it is a number, but it is a profound number. We have long shifted from wanting to be older and more mature to accepting where we are and sometimes even wanting to stop the clock. You don’t hear many fifty year olds saying, “I just can’t wait til I’m 55.” As I approached fifty, I realized that if I continued on the path of denial, it would only be a matter of time before my pancreas would protest and I would develop diabetes and follow in the footsteps of my family….a grandmother that died of complications due to diabetes at the age of 38, and a father who developed diabetes in his mid-forties and became debilitated for the last twenty years of his life, finally succumbing to the disease in 2007. On the other side of the family tree, my mother developed heart and lung disease in her forties which resulted in a slow and painful death for the last ten years of her life. Having my own child later in life and being an older mother, along with losing both of my parents within three years of each other created the perfect storm for my own moment of truth. Did I want my daughter’s childhood memories of me to be that of sitting on the couch, watching TV, sleeping all the time, never having the energy to play or engage in her life? Did I want a teenager who was embarrassed (more than typical teenage embarrassment) to be in my presence because of my appearance and health status? Did I want a young adult child who would be burdened with my healthcare issues? But worst of all, did I want my child to grow up without me because of premature death? She and I would miss so much. You can only live in denial for so long until you come to one of two conclusions: I’m uncomfortable with who I am, but I am paralyzed by fear and cannot possibly move forward. Or, I am uncomfortable with myself and I must do something differently or there will be consequences. Not to sound overly dramatic but it was the realization that this could be my last chance to save myself and defy my family history that drove me to take back my life. I couldn’t change the years I had lost, however, I could define my future. But how…?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

You Gotta Just "Tri"

Welcome to my work-in-progress blog. I wanted this blog to be a combination of health psychology, sports psychology and fitness information intertwined with my own personal journey. Here are some tips for getting into the exercise groove:

1. Choose something you like, because you are more likely to do it.
2. Don’t wait until you are thinner, stronger, less busy, have more money, etc., etc. Do it now!!!
3. Register for a race and make it real.
4. I work with clients to set SMART goals. SMART = Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timed. (a) Specific: Saying, for example, “I want to improve my health,” is too abstract, and will leave you with the feeling, of, “So now what do I do?” (b) Measurable: You should be able to define a specific outcome or endpoint. (c) Attainable: This is not to say you should not reach or aspire, but again, take small steps. (d) Relevant: Obviously the goal should relate to something important to you. (e) Timed: We do much better when we set concrete, achievable time limits for ourselves. So let’s put this all together.

Vague: I want to improve my health. While that is an overarching (and positive) goal, and a great start, it could mean many different things. Does it mean you want to lose weight, eat healthier foods but not necessarily reduce calories, exercise more, drink or smoke less, reduce your stress levels, lower your blood pressure, take prescribed medications as directed, see your physician more regularly for check-ups, move to a place where the air is cleaner and drier, etc.. It’s very non-specific and can seem overwhelming and unattainable, perhaps causing you to give up early on. In contrast, how does this sound:

More specific: I want to increase the amount of physical activity in my life (specific) by walking (even more specific) for 20-30 minutes per day, three times per week, (measurable) on mornings where I don’t have to be in the office until a later time (attainable). This is one aspect of reducing my anxiety level and improving my health (relevant). I will start this next Monday, and will chart my progress weekly (timed). See how this gives you some concrete stuff to sink your teeth into? Give it a try and let me know what you think.

And here is my SMART goal, which will be the primary theme of this blog: I want to complete a 70.3 triathlon in June 2011 (specific) by training 5 days a week which will include swimming, running, and cycling 2x per week per my training plan early mornings (measurable and attainable). This training schedule will help me feel prepared and focused for the race (relevant). My 22 week training season started this past Monday and I will chart my progress daily up until race day (timed). Phew, better get started. Next time, my own “Moment of Truth” and my slow but steady journey to "tri"….