The Journey Of Ordinary

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Ordinary ~  noun~  what is common place or standard.

It had been one of those whirlwind days for me when I realized it was already midafternoon. My morning was behind me and I was full speed into the rest of my day. I received a message from my husband that at first seemed, odd.

“I rarely say anything about your blog other than to discuss the content of what you wrote on that day, nor do I ever really disagree with you on something you wrote. But I’m going to disagree with you on this…”

Well obviously, he had my attention. He is pretty much the only one who’s opinion I want or care about and of course I was wondering what he had issue with in regards to my writing that day.

I waited for the rest of his message to come in…..

“You wrote that you’re an “ordinary” athlete.  I disagree. You are far from “ordinary” as an athlete.”

Obviously, I wasn’t expecting that. Obviously, he couldn’t have said anything cooler to me.

Of course, he was picking it out of the entire context of my post that day. I was simply using myself as an example of someone who wasn’t like… you know… an elite athlete or even one who had been an athlete through school or something like that.

I got what he meant. I know that I do a lot more athletically than the majority of people my age, heck, even those a lot younger. I guess I’ve become so accustomed to doing what I do, I forget that normal people think it’s weird 😛

Here’s where I’m going.

I used ordinary for a reason.

I wanted ( and still want) people to relate to a woman who had no athletic back round,  and who had no interest in any kind of serious athletic events. A woman who was literally smack in the land of “middle aged” who had taken care of everyone around her but herself for the longest time. Middle aged, carrying more weight than she needed, out of shape, with a family history of (potential) health problems in the future if she didn’t change up her ways.

It’s a standard thing to tell people I really started off as a “reluctant walker”. I knew I needed to do something so I dutifully logged my 2 mile walk every day. No matter what, I did it. I did it till it got into the pattern of a new habit.

I grumbled. I complained. I whined.

An over weight, middle aged, ordinary wife, mom, sister, daughter, jack of all trades, woman just kept at it each day.

I had no lofty athletic goals dancing anywhere in my mind… at all… in any direction. If anyone told me I could be a strong athlete, I would’ve laughed. The idea seemed preposterous.

Funny thing about making new habits….

They stick.

New habits turn into new desires. New goals. New plans.

What I didn’t know as an ordinary woman, out on the road, building that new habit, not only was it changing my body, it was changing my mind.

I was learning more about myself than I previously understood.

~ my body could go farther!

~ it could walk faster!

~ that walk could be turned into short runs!

~ those short runs could be turned into longer runs!

When I’d come back tired, I’d think about what I had been able to do. I developed a new appreciation for what my body was capable of, that I hadn’t given it credit for. I saw how it over time, began to adapt and change from the activities I put it through.

My weight dropped off.  I got stronger. Muscles showed up that hadn’t been there. I developed a great endurance capacity.  My mind was getting stronger. ( that, is where the real playing field is boys and girls)  you get your mind strong, you can own the world.

Somehow, I managed to sign up for my first race which was a half marathon ( #overachiever) I found out later that most people start with a 5K.

I just kept moving forward. It’s safe to say at this point I was getting hooked. I actually liked what I was doing.  I looked forward to exercise.

Year, after steady year. New goals, new plans, new dreams.

They didn’t come all together, those goals.

Heavens no.

Safe to say I would’ve felt enough fear? uncertainty? to cause me to run the other way if those things all were presented to me at once.

I was just, you know, an ordinary woman, turning into an athlete.  That’s not said with any vain thought…. it’s just an acknowledgment of where I am now.

I am strong. I am capable of doing more physically than I ever would’ve imagined. I am an athlete.

If I look at where I am today, and where I’ve come from, and what I can do now, then yeah, I guess I’d agree with hubby that I’m not “ordinary”.

Becoming a good athlete has been born from hours and hours of work, sacrifice, dedication, tears, tired muscles, frustrations, down right stubbornness, and an unwillingness to give up.

This is your reminder…..

This is what I want you, others, anyone I interact with, to remember. If an “ordinary” woman like myself can accomplish goals and events she never would have imagined, you my dear reader, can do anything you set your mind to.

If you’ve entertained ideas on doing something specific, write down the steps you need to move that direction. If you just think you’re only goal at this point is to get off the sofa, well, go you! Do it. You never know where the path from the sofa may lead to.

Don’t let your thinking be crowded with thoughts that only certain people can do certain things.

Extraordinary things can happen when “ordinary” people get to work.

Tell me something cool you’ve accomplished that seemed impossible or that you never thought you’d see yourself doing. Did you ever feel to “ordinary” in the sense you thought you didn’t have what it would take to do it ?

 

The No Pain No Gain Myth

no pain no gain

“No pain, no gain!”,  “Train insane or remain the same!”, ” Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going”, “Pain is weakness leaving the body”, “If it’s not hurting it’s not working”, and one of my “favorites”, “Don’t quit. You’re already in pain. You’re already hurt. Get a reward from it.”

Sweet mother of heaven.  Stop. It.

I won’t go on with these anymore, but let’s just say these types of quotes abound. And it’s not just that they are quotes, but also ways that many in the health/fitness world live by.

If you aren’t in pain, then you aren’t working hard enough, doing enough. This thought translates to telling you that you aren’t really getting anywhere.

First though, I’m not talking about working hard because I know what that’s like and I know how to push myself. I love a good challenge and don’t mind waking up the next day and knowing I worked hard.  I know when to push and when to back off, especially if it’s pushing to hard that could potentially cause injury whether it’s on the road running or lifting weight that might be out of my zone.  I do myself no favors working in a place my body isn’t used to. I get no extra points and I’m certainly not going to do it for bragging rights and what does it prove to myself, or anyone for that matter, if I derail my workouts because it hurts to move my body?

We have limits. We all do.

And yes, I understand I need to constantly be moving out of my comfort zone and I think anyone should have that mentality if they want to continue to get stronger, faster, and improve their athletic performance.

You just won’t make progress if you can’t get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

However, It’s important to know where you are and how much you can press into that, and then back off when you need to allowing your body time to adapt and adjust to the new demands you put on it.

The danger of the mentality of working out till you’re fainting or in pain or having other physical issues is that you can cause more damage than “gains”.

Do you really want to push yourself to a point that you are injured and then get sidelined and can’t do anything? Do you really think being in real pain and continuing a work out is a smart move?  Do you want to do so much you can hardly walk the next day?

I think not.

Let me be clear here. There is great value in working hard, getting our heart rate up and letting the sweat roll and the general population should be doing it regularly.

Here’s the deal. You don’t have to do a killer workout every time you are out there.

Athletes don’t do it, so why are trainers preaching this gospel to the average person wanting to get fit ?

It can be a dangerous game to play . I mean, no pain means no improvement to us, right? Isn’t that what all those little fitspo quotes mean ?

Nonsense. Consistency and regular movement will yield results.

The important thing is to find balance that works for your body, mind, and lifestyle.

So if the idea of pain and suffering for gain is not where it’s at, what should you do?

Learn to turn it up

Know where you are, know your limits, and be willing to turn it up from there. Don’t be afraid of working hard and pushing outside your comfort zone.

Understand that working outside your comfort zone doesn’t mean suffering through pain that hurts you.

If you’re in real pain, for goodness sake, stop! If you’re in pain and hurting the only “gain” you risk is getting sidelined from an injury.

There’s no heroics in that.

Work hard, but know your goals

Obviously, we are all on different health and fitness paths. The most important thing is to know what you want.  Where are you going? Is it for health that you are working out? To walk a strong mile and not feel like you’re dying? To be able to run some? To improve your daily life? Keep up with your kids?

Do you want more?  Are you wanting to train for an event like a half marathon or a Crossfit competition?  Then your goals will look different.

Perhaps you are wanting to do something related to fitness competitions. Again, a new set of goals to get to your destination.

No matter what your reasons or goals, there should never be the mentality that it’s not a good workout if you aren’t fainting, in pain, and hurting all over.

There’s a fine line of a body that has worked hard, and one that has been pushed beyond what is it capable of at that point in time.

Work hard, but work smart.

So how should you train?

You know yourself better than anyone. If you’re just getting off the sofa and starting to move, you need to be sensitive to the fact your body is going to protest! Go easy and be moderate in what you do. Allow time to adapt to your new plan. It can take a couple weeks to ease into a new program.

If you’re already in some type of activity or training for something, don’t be afraid to keep pushing out of your comfort zone. Just listen to your body.

Pain, or any feelings of not feeling well, should be respected.

Rest days are when gains are really made

I will admit, I’m at the top of the charts at chomping over rest days. If you don’t know what that means, it’s usually a scheduled day/days off to allow the body to recover from it’s activities.

Exercise is such a habit for me now, that taking a rest day can make me feel like I forgot to brush my teeth.

I have however, learned more about the importance of taking some and know that rest days don’t mean “lazy” ( do nothing and eat pizza days)  but more of an active recovery time.

I may do short walks, or focus on stretching and foam rolling my muscles.

During those rest/recovery times our muscles rebuild and that’s when they grow and get stronger. These days allow us to hopefully, head back to what we love, stronger and feeling more energized for what we do.

You get no extra points for skipping rest days. In fact you do your body a disservice by not allowing it that time.  Rest days allow your muscles, bones, nerves, and connective tissues time to heal and rebuild.

Rest days can also help prevent burn out, mentally and physically.

Schedule rest days as a part of your workout regime.

I know this doesn’t fit into the ” no pain no gain” ideal, but you’re not participating in that anyway, are you ?

Keeping it healthy

If you want to enjoy whatever your fitness path may be, then you will learn to:

~ work hard, but listen to your body. Pace yourself.

~ push out of your comfort zone but stop if you have pain that is hurtful. Discomfort is different from pain.

~ set realistic goals for yourself and know and understand the limits of where you currently are.

~ schedule planned rest days to allow your body ( and mind) some rest and recovery time.

By having a smart mentality you will be able to do what you love, hopefully without pain or injury, and get stronger in the process.

Tell me. Have you ever been a part of the no pain, no gain club? How did that work for you? Do you have any healthy training tips to offer ?

 

 

Muscle Building 101

“How to get a toned body!” the title screamed at me from the magazine cover. Maybe I shuddered a little.

I don’t like that word. Why? I’m not sure exactly.

Maybe because it’s vague? What is “toned”, really?

Ok I know what they mean. I’ve even had people use it in regards to my physique.

What it really implies is having muscle under your skin so you are filled out, sleek or have shape and definition.

Through conversations I’ve learned it’s a look many women want but aren’t quite sure how to go about getting there.

I’m not talking body builder status here. That is an entirely different animal that requires a whole lot of weights,  food micro managed and discipline to get to that point.

No, I’m talking about having some muscle on your body that gives shape or the “toned” look that people often reference.

I want to offer some encouragement and suggestions in this post if that thought has crossed your mind on occasion.

Maybe a starting point for you.

I’ll tell you this. When I started on my journey, having some muscle was probably the last thing on my mind  at the time.

I mean initially, it was all about losing some fat.

I never gave it a thought, having muscles. Well, I should say,  having more muscles than woman usually are wearing.

Weirdly as my athletic endeavors continued along, the muscle, almost became a side effect from much of what I was doing. Meaning, I wasn’t spending long hours a week in an attempt to build it. The growth came from activities I was pursuing and enjoyed.

And it has taken time… understand if your an average person plugging along.. it takes time. I have taken photos in my fitness journey.  For example, I can look at my arms in a photo for one year, but compare a photo from a year or so later and the difference is quite apparent.

I should maybe make a little disclaimer here that my body seems to respond well to adding muscle. It’s important to know if you start, what body type you have. This will give you a bit of understanding if it takes you longer than a friend to see results.

I remember when I did Crossfit one of the trainers teasing me I was a freak ’cause she’d been intentionally working on muscle building and I wandered in off the streets with really no formal training or work with weights and carried more muscle than pretty much most people who were already there.

Know your body type

There’s a reason why. My body type is a mesomorph ( that kinda sounds like a Power Ranger, doesn’t it ? 😉 ) it’s really just a fancy way of saying I’m a bit more predisposed to gaining muscle than maybe some of my leaner, slimmer counterparts.

body type
Do a quick check to identify your body type

 

Because of my body type, I’m already genetically wired to build on it. Now if I never applied myself, obviously I wouldn’t change. But with exercise and weights I can make that work for me. And basically, I might not have to work as hard to see results as someone with a endomorph or ectomorph body type.

Once you understand more of what you’re working with you can decide how you want to train or what you want to work on. You can build muscle with body weight exercises as well as weights. I personally love and prefer free weights over machines.

I sometimes get the “oh, where do you train?” question and I love telling them in the back of a barn with yard equipment and old furniture 😛

Seriously though, my body has no idea if it’s in a fancy gym or at home. It just knows the work it’s put through.

Yours will too. You don’t need to get fancy to yield results. You just need determination, dedication and consistency for results.

Ready to get started ?

if you’re going to be at home, you’ll need some type of weights, whether you buy them or make them. I’ve found sites where people sell items purchased  full of good intentions, that they are getting rid of, and you can get them cheap. Try and get some free weights that are heavy enough to make you work… think 6-8 reps before you can’t lift it. You can go to a sports store and test them there.  And heaven help me.. if you buy those little tiny pink or blue ones that weigh less than a shoe… I will find you…. and beat you with it hahaha

Think about items you lift in your day. A jug of milk. Grocery bags. A heavy bag of dog food. Baskets of laundry.

Don’t get weights that aren’t heavy enough and expect results.

** on the cheap**…. save milk jugs… fill with sand or water… weigh them to get a idea of what you are lifting. You can increase as needed.

What can I do with my fancy weights?

I find a lot of people want to work on their arms/shoulders. And why not? Nothing looks stronger than rocking some solid arms and shoulders and they can be an easier body part to train.

I heard a line on a TV show as I was preparing this that made me laugh.. but it’s also true.

“Why did you purchase a sweater with no sleeves?!”

The response?

“Because my arms look amazing!”

I’ll be honest here. Most of my wardrobe has no sleeves. I love having strong arms and I don’t hide them.

With some work and consistency you can have strong arms too.

Below are some of my favorite go to moves for a strong upper body. For the sake of space in this post, my commentary will be limited. I strongly encourage you to learn more about these moves and variations that come with them 🙂

bicep-curls
Bicep curls
bent over row
Bent over row
shoulder_press
Shoulder press
overhead-extension
Overhead tricep extension
bent over flies
Bent over flys
tricep kickback
Tricep kickback
chest press
Chest press

Once you determine the weight you will use, you can begin with sets. Usually a “set” can have anywhere from 8-12 reps. You then repeat the sets 2-4 times depending on your level on fitness. It’s best to start low and let your body adapt and then increase reps and sets.

What about the rest of the body?

I will admit, I don’t over work my legs on strength training days. Between running and cycling it keeps them in pretty good shape. I do incorporate some moves though that cover the whole legs and butt area and also helps to keep me loosened up.

Here are some body weight exercises that will work the legs/ glutes area.

Again, I will encourage you to learn more about each move and then you can make your own “plan” to use.

The squat, jump squat ( weirdly one of my fav’s to do), the lunge, jump lunge, side lunge, sumo squat ( this always feels so powerful to me) are all body weight moves you can do anywhere.

The glute bridge ( perfect for those who might physically not be able to do squat type moves) I love adding a 25lb weight plate to my belly when I do them.

glute_bridge
Glute bridge

 

I do believe what has become one of my favorites is the single leg dead lift. Not only is it great for your balance it also isolates one hip/glute area at a time which is helpful for making sure each leg is strong. Your core should be tight and engaged as you do this.  If you’re a runner, you want to learn this one.  Oh yeah… are you wanting a rounder bottom? This is one of the best things you can do 😉

Single-Leg-Romanian-Deadlift

I use a 35 lb kettle bell doing this exercise.  You can use nothing at all in the beginning, work on keeping your balance (keep your eyes fixed on something directly in front of you to help balance) and having good form. If you want to add some weight to your hands as you get stronger, even better.

Note: almost all of these exercises can be used with dumb bells as well to make it a bit harder.

Abs, please ?

I get it. Some people will never care in the least if they see a defined muscle in their belly or not. For others, it’s a pursuit and a reward of our labors to have some obvious muscle in that place.

Not all abs are created equal. Some will effortlessly attain them, others will have to work like crazy ( hint, remember your body type)

Then there’s the obvious. If you have to much fat over them you won’t see them no matter how many exercises you do.

I’ll tell you there is truth to the saying “abs are made in the kitchen”. What you eat has a huge impact on the leanness of your belly and those hidden muscles. A diet high in veggies, fruits, and lean meats can definitely help reveal them.

And crunches… forget those. Our abs ( our “core”) are made up of many layers and need to be worked in different ways for results. The muscles that make up our abs are the rectus abdominus, with several other core muscles, including the obliques, transversus abdominus, and serratus.  You can see where just the age old “crunch” isn’t going to work all of those groups.

Here are a few body weight moves to consider

The plank and side plank

Russian twist ( again I like using a weight plate doing this)

russian twist
Russian twist

 

 

ok… another for you…  the bicycle crunch

bicycle crunch

And one of my favorite ones. I usually do them till I can’t do them anymore.

butterfly
the butterfly crunch

This was a move I took out of Crossfit. You really need to suck your bellybutton into your backbone as you come up. Keep the move very controlled on the way back down. Your core should feel tight and engaged. For extra fun, yeah, here comes my standard 25 lb weight plate I hold while I do them.  Again, the focus should be on knowing where you are and what you can do and doing it in good form. Don’t push for more than you’re ready for.

The bottom line ?

Man or woman, for great abs you need to be lean and have good core development.

In summary a little head to toe movement using just your body ( hey we all have that!) or some free weights is a good way to start working on those muscles.  Use these ideas to start or feel free to look up your own and build a plan.

Remember the biggest key to success and building a little muscle is time, consistency, and discipline. With some patience there will come rewards for your efforts.

Do you have any favorite exercises for muscle building? What has worked best for you?

Aging And The Fountain Of Youth

Botox. Creams. Anti-aging serums. Plastic surgery. Lotions and creams that promise to restore youth or keep you young looking are all over the market and you don’t have to look further than magazines or the tv to find numerous products being offered to help you look younger.

The question that begs to be asked is this…. “is there such a thing as the fountain of youth?”

Is there some secret, magical potion that will keep us looking young and vibrant ? Is it to be found in bottles or jars? Is that secret lurking in our medicine cabinet for us to discover?

The skin care industry is a booming business and lots of it comes from products promising a youthful appearance.

But… what if it isn’t found in a  jar? What if it’s something that’s free and you always have it available to you? Would you want to use it?

My childhood friend accuses me of voodoo or some kind of witchcraft telling me I’m not aging and in fact appear to have gotten younger. She proclaims to not love me for that but I think she’s lying 😉

Where that is a flattering compliment, the reality is, of course I’m aging like anyone else. However, it’s what I do and how I live that might be actually slowing that progression down.

So what is this secret formula? How do you get your hands on it ?

It’s already in you waiting to be used, every single day, and it’s exercise.

grow old

Now wait! Don’t check out on me here. Not yet since I’m fixing to share some scientific(y) stuff with you about exercise, our bodies, and the whole aging process. I’ll try to keep it basic and to the point but of course I’d encourage you to do your own research if you want to learn more.

Exercise cannot change our chronological age as that is set in stone. We were born on a certain day and year, our “age” hinges on that. It’s immovable.

Our biological age boys and girls, is a whole new game, and exercise fights against aging by protecting cells from the ticking clock.

Our biological age, can be changed.

Say what ?

Exercise can fight against a cellular level and staying healthy means you can keep your cells young.

Keeping cells young allows tissues to function properly.

Exercise boosts muscle levels of a compound  called NRF1 which impacts telomeres at the ends of each of our chromosomes.

Yikes! What is NRF1 and how does that work for me?

As simple as possible, it stimulates the production of proteins that are needed for cellular energy production and proteins involved in the making of new healthy mitochondria.  If you don’t remember from biology class ( cause I didn’t ) mitochondria are the powerhouse of our cells and are responsible for creating more that 90% of energy needed by the body to sustain life and support organ function.  Their function typically declines with age but with vigorous exercise mitochondria function improves ( and you can grow a lot more)

Exercise boosts muscle levels of the compound called NRF1 which impacts our telomeres at the ends of each of our chromosomes.

Hang on with me here ok?

Maybe you forgot what telomeres are. They are basically like little biological clocks on the ends of our DNA.  When in good shape, our DNA (cells) stay young. When they get damaged the cells get old. Telomeres are protective caps at the end of our chromosomes that keep them stable- think like plastic at the end of shoe laces. Every time a cell divides telomeres get shorter. Eventually they become to small to protect chromosomes and cells get old and die resulting in aging .

Unfortunately, telomeres get eroded with time.

Pay attention now boys and girls…….

the speed of erosion is not fully fixed which explains why you can impact biological age! This is where producing NRF1 is helpful. when activated by exercise it can produce protective molecules for telomeres, like varnish on nails. This all works on an anti-aging level, biologically.

Not all exercise is created equal for these benefits…

where as all types of exercise is good for our bodies, relieves stress, keeps our health balanced and leads to overall fitness, the type of exercise to reap the biggest anti-aging results is HIIT or cardio exercises done for at least 30 minutes or more 5 times a week.

Strength training is good for building muscle and overall body strength but it won’t have the same benefits for cell renewal as cardio or high intensity exercises.

In a study done by Newsweek in May 2017, it found of 5,000 adults in a research study that those who exercise regularly are younger on a cellular level than their sedentary or moderately active counterparts.  The study also compared telomere length with levels of physical activity. The study showed significant differences between those who did vigorous exercise and those who did not. The adults who did strong, vigorous exercise were biologically 9-10 years younger. ( for the study a high physical level was considered to be 30-40 minutes of running at least 5 days a week)

Why exercise appears to preserve telomere length is not known but it could be linked with inflammation and oxidative stress over time.

To see a real difference in slowing your biological age it appears a little exercise won’t do the trick, you have to work out regularly and at high levels.

Of course other benefits that come with strong level of exercise is reduced inflammation in the body that comes with aging, which can also help decrease your risk of developing related diseases and conditions like heart disease, depression, muscle loss and decreased memory.

Skin deep…..

Why do some of the fittest 60-plus women look younger than their age? The answer lies in the question. A recent study from McMaster University in Hamilton, ON, found that women over 65 who worked out for a minimum of two hours a week for three months had the skin composition of women 20 to 30 years younger. It seems that sweating it out at the gym leads to pumping myokines, a group of proteins secreted by muscle cells and diffused throughout the body. (Best Health Magazine)

and it’s true…some of the fitness women I know don’t look their age.  ( I’m not leaving the guys out… vigorous exercise can yield similar health benefits).

The Game Plan….

Don’t worry about fancy creams, instead, get on a consistent, regimented exercise plan and stick to it.

Don’t look for instant results but keep in mind all of the great health benefits your body will reap by being active and sweating a lot.

Don’t forget other factors that can help keep your age a secret too. Make sure you’re nutrition is focused on whole, healthy foods, skip the smoking and drinking, watch your sugar/processed food intake, hydrate well with plenty of water, get adequate rest, protect your skin, laugh a lot  and get your exercise in at least 5-6 days a week.

And then… hey…go ahead and share your age… no one will believe you 😉

Has exercise helped you maintain more than just being fit? Have you noticed results in your health and appearance  from consistent exercise?

The Accidental Cyclist

It came up again in casual conversation as it almost always does….

“So, when did you start cycling? I guess you’ve been at it awhile?”  ( you can also interchange “running” as well with these questions)

Ok, I’ll admit I love the opportunity to share sports I’m passionate about especially if it encourages someone to want to get out and try it. It’s obviously  fun for me when the person is involved in whatever activity  and we can “talk shop”.  I use those times to pick brains and learn more from someone who might have more experience in the field than I do.

So when the question came up I shared  I had only gotten my “real” racing bike a year ago but there was a catalyst that propelled me to that because before then I felt like…

A Wanna Be Biker Chick

I usually back up to the fact that running is my passion, and as passions go I had thrown myself whole  heartedly into my love and also picked up an injury that had majorly side lined me from my passion. (Heavy training for a marathon, straight into a 50k… but it was so worth it)

I had a bike, a cheap little mountain bike, that I used for cross training days when I’d give my legs a break from running. There were honestly weeks that went by I didn’t see the bike. I loved running. I didn’t consider myself a cyclist. I was a runner.

bike pic
My mountain bike that would start it all…

 

I was at Walmart one day and realized they had cheap little “road” bikes for sale.

Ahhhh perfect I thought. This will get me moving more on the bike and I can maybe start training for “something”.

A road bike was, for me, an upgrade from a mountain bike.  I still did not see myself as more than a casual bike rider. But none the less, I started packing some miles on it. About my only nod to looking like a cyclist was wearing a helmet ( for heavens sake…always…wear a helmet no matter what)

20150815_083450-1
See. I told you. Nothing but running gear, a helmet, and my trusty road bike from Walmart.

 

I’d see “real” cyclists flying down the road in their sleek clothes, bright helmets, feet clipped into pedals, on bikes that were the price of a good used car and think those are REAL cyclists….

I still felt like a wanna be biker chick.

I took my trusty new road bike to a local shop in town for a “tune up” before I started pushing more miles on it.

The tune up cost me what the bike did.  Seriously.

By that time I had been logging some real miles, using it as a substitute to fill my craving for all the  miles I wasn’t getting on the road running. I was already entertaining the very lofty goal of the duathlon if my feet would just heal up already.

I shared this tidbit with Mr. Knowledgeable Bike Shop Man … he nicely said..” I don’t think this bike is going to work for what you’re wanting to do.”  He then of course started showing me nice pricey little bikes he had available and I just thought he was trying to upsell me and make some money.

Ah. Little did I know.

A year rolls by…..

I had been seriously abusing my little bike. I was logging anywhere from 45-55 miles a week on it. I was getting hooked. I still had my duathlon dreams lurking in the back of my mind and the bike gave me the adrenaline of miles without beating my body up.

As things happen in life I came across a nicer road bike for re-sale. I had taken it in to another bike shop to have them look at it and to see if it would fit me (when you have a long body and long legs you gotta consider these things!)

Of course, the bike was to small for me.

As luck would have it, he had a bike that would fit me perfectly. He wheels out this bright, shiny red  Cannondale that looked like the equivalent of a sports car to me. With a few tweaks and adjustments he hands it over to me telling me to “take it out for a spin”.

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So pretty… just waiting for miles….

 

I am hardly dressed to ride that day in slim fitting black pants and combat boots but he didn’t have to tell me twice. It only took minutes in the saddle to feel the difference and know this was a game changer.

This would help me get to my goals.

As I came zipping back in feeling like a kid with my hair flying everywhere ( the only time I rode without a helmet) I knew I had to have that bike.

Yet still nagging in the back of my mind… you aren’t reallllyyy a cyclist….

The bike was on sale. He had a limited number. I left that day and basically started selling random possessions no longer needed and squirreling that money away. Within a month I had not only the money for the bike, but also for cycling shoes ’cause I was doing it all.

I was getting the racing bike and shoes to clip in.. geez I thought running shoes were expensive!

As luck would have it, when I got to the bike shop he had one left. He has told me over and over how glad he is I got it, that it was still there for me.

He (still) tells anyone in the shop when I’m in… “DUDE! She was riding 50ish miles a week on a Walmart bike!”

To which I get looks that you would receive if you said you had just hiked the Himelaya mountains… one does not simply ride that many miles on a Walmart bike.  I have sense learned… things fall apart on them at the most inopportune times… like when my handle bars started turning every which way but loose and I had like 5 miles to keep riding back trying to hold them in place. Good times. They are designed for spins around the neighborhood with your kids but not beating the life out of them 25+ miles at a time.

Maybe I am a cyclist…...

Hanging out in a bike shop talking with like minded people who don’t think you’re crazy, who are ridiculously smart on the topic, and push you to your athletic goals is a cool thing. I realized that they completely considered me one and were willing to help and teach me things ( as in learning to change a tire)  I was in recently talking about my training and he referred to me as a duathlete and I looked around thinking he meant someone else.

I told hubby later and he was like… “uh… you ARE a duathlete.”

 

We just celebrated our one year anniversary together.

No. Not me and the hubby, me and the Cannondale that is. I’ve put over 1500 miles on it which compared to some riders, isn’t a lot, but for me it represents lots of training miles, lots of discipline and learning new things. I’ve become stronger and more confident in what I’m doing. I take it in frequently for it’s free tune ups and to talk bike stuff with people who still know more than me. Since I have (officially) signed up for my first duathlon which is in November, I have a team at the shop that will make sure my bike is in top condition for the event. That’s kinda cool, I think.

So I’ve been burning up the road. A wounded runner turned cyclist…turned duathlete…maybe I really am one now….

But I’m more of a rebellious, nonconforming cyclist……

First, I break all cycling rules by acknowledging another cyclist who’s sailing by me. I mean… we are passing each other… can’t miss one another… but I’m always blown away at how many seemingly look right through me. Runners are so different on this score… in the cycling world I think it’s some unwritten law to not acknowledge each other…

I do have more gear now. The helmet of course. I just got a cool new Giro a few months ago. Of course I have their cycling shoes as well and even though learning to clip and unclip and all that goes with it was a learning process, it definitely helps deliver a lot more power on the bike. Now I can’t imagine not riding clipped in.  A lot different than riding in my running shoes from a year ago!

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Ok, maybe I do get a little excited over new gear 😉

 

But you will most likely find me on these warm days in nothing more than my sports bra and my running shorts. Yeah, my running shorts. I do have cycling shorts but training for a duathlon and having to run, I find my running shorts work better. So I’m training like I will race. Although, November is gonna come around and change things up 😉

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A lesser known thing about cycling, learning to perfect your selfie skills on the bike 😉

 

Cycling can get crazy expensive so I invested into the stuff that matters ( a good bike, shoes, helmet) and I fly on the cheap with the rest of it. I love some of the cute cycling kits available but prices on them are crazy so… until I get a sponsor for my fav’s … I’ll keep trolling Ebay for cute ones with good deals 😉

I am a cyclist.

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Cycling girl. And in my most recent acquisition from Ebay. How cute is this jersey??

 

 

The “wanna be biker chick” idea left a long time ago.

Even if I accidentally stumbled into the world of cycling, I’m here. I’m in it. I’ve found another sport I actually enjoy and it turns out, I’m pretty good at.

As the guys at the bike shop tell me “You wanna be better? You spend more time on the road. You ride. You push yourself. You learn.”

So I continue the journey, on foot and bike. constantly grateful for the opportunity to do both and excited to see where I can go from here.

With open roads, the challenges are unlimited.

Tell me, have you accidentally stumbled into something only to find a new passion?

Hydration And Health

Water. Juice. Coffee. Milk. Sports Drinks.

Liquid… endless things that can offer hydration to our bodies but by far water is the best thing to keep them well hydrated.

Although, I’m pretty sure  black iced coffee is a good second 😉

Summer is heavy upon us here in the states and with that comes not only work to be done outside but also for many of us, the outdoors is our “gym” and with hard workouts come high sweat rates.

Of course we also lose fluids through elimination, natural sweating, and even certain foods or drinks can draw precious fluids from us.

Therefore you should make it a daily, intentional act to constantly hydrate and replenish fluid losses.

Water is of course, the best source for rehydrating, yet I’m shocked at how many people don’t drink it or have minimal consumption of it in their day.

Consider this:

the human body is made up of a high percentage of water.  Babies and children have the highest amounts, the average adult is 50-65%. Body composition varies according to gender and fitness level because fatty tissue contains less water than lean tissue. The average adult male is about 60% water. The average adult woman is about 55% water because women naturally have more fatty tissue than men. Overweight men and women have less water, as a percent than their leaner counterparts.

The percent of water depends on your hydration level. People feel thirsty when they have already lost around 2-3% of their body’s water! Mental performance and physical coordination start to become impaired before thirst kicks in, typically around 1% dehydration.

Since your brain is about 85% water, even mild dehydration can bring on changes in your mood and a decline in your concentration and alertness.

You know days you can feel tired or foggy? Have a headache? You could need a good dose of water and suffering from mild dehydration.

Want to know a really gross kind of way to know how hydrated you are? The color of your urine. If it’s light/clear or pale lemonade colored, you are well hydrated. Any darker, you need to get some fluids.

Again, waiting till you feel thirsty means you are already in some type of dehydrated mode. Avoid that by making fluid intake an intentional, purposeful part of your day.

How much water DO you need in a day?

New recommendations are the “8 by 8” rule.  Drink 8 ounces of fluid, 8 times a day.  Of course there are many variables to that. Where you live, how healthy you are, and how active you are all play into how much fluid you need so it comes down to a more personalized level.

I carry water with me all the time. It ensures I’m constantly drinking on it. Make it a part of your daily life and it will soon become routine for you and you’ll see it’s not so hard to get your water in 🙂

Let’s address hydration on an athletic level.

Loss of fluid volume can greatly affect your athletic performance. I’ve learned the hard way when I haven’t taken enough fluid in before, during, or after.

It’s key to understand your “sweat rate” so you can get adequate fluid back in you as soon as possible.

There are all sorts of formulas but the best one is fairly simple.

Weigh in before a workout, no clothes is best. Weigh in after you’re done in the same manner.

Know how much fluid you take in during your workout, let’s hypothetically say,  I took in 32 oz.  ( this would be 2 lbs.)

My sweat losses on heavy workouts can be anywhere from 2-3lbs.  I’ll just use 2 lbs for easy math.

My total fluid loss would be around 4 lbs.

The goal then is to begin to replace those losses as quickly as possible and no, I don’t count it as “weight loss”.  I would multiple 4 lbs. lost x 16oz (1 lb liquid) meaning I would need to work at replacing that fluid (64 oz) before I continued drinking for ongoing hydration.

This would also involve learning to drink if I might not necessarily “feel” like it to replace those losses. And thirst is not a reliable indicator of dehydration. If you wait to drink until you are thirsty and stop drinking when your thirst is satisfied, you’ll remain 25% to 50% dehydrated.

Using a balanced sports drink to replace electrolytes and other vital minerals lost is a good way to begin rehydrating properly.

I recently came across one that I like, and my tummy likes too. I’ve been using it on my long cycling session and after I finish my workouts. It’s called Body Armor. It comes in lots of crisp flavors and it’s not overly sweet. It also comes in at only 70 calories a bottle as well which is a big win.

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I’ve done Gatorade but it really reminds me of bottled sweat 😛

It’s important to find what works for you during training and train with it. Keeping your fluid level stable during your workout will make it easier to properly rehydrate after you finish.

No matter what you do in your day, from the time you wake up, until bed you should be intentional about your fluid intake. Again, if athletic activities are in your day, your fluid should even be more focused to maintain your performance and recovery. Being properly hydrated before hand is crucial and makes it easier to stay hydrated during those long sessions.

Tips on drinking water:

I get it, well, I don’t sometimes. It amazes me that people say they don’t “like” water. And if you’re used to consuming primarily liquids that have flavor it will be a challenge to you. You can learn though and in time, you will develop your “natural” thirst for it again.

Try adding fresh citrus ( lime or lemon) squeezed into your water. There are also several flavored waters on the market that have zero or low calorie to ease you into the process. Work then to gradually wean yourself to regular water.

Drink a glass first thing when you get up. As much as I love my morning coffee, a large glass of water is the first thing I take in.

Take it with you everywhere. I honestly run back in the house if I realize I left it when I head out.

With time and a little practice you will be getting all your water in and it will seem perfectly natural to you.

Do you have any water drinking tips? Anything that helped you to get in the “habit”?

 

 

 

The Weird And Wonderful Things About Runners

So I haven’t written any posts on the wonderful act of running lately.  Not that it hasn’t been on my mind OR something I’ve been slowly crawling back into.

I have been back on the road. I’ve been juggling cycling and short runs. In fact, I’ll be doing it very soon this morning.

Last week, I did my first double digit miles in…well… I can’t honestly tell you.

10 miles.  I felt glorious in that tired, exhilarating way that a long run can make me feel. Especially when I’ve not been able to for so long.

I wondered taking off… can I still DO this ?!

Over the past year or so I’ve been walking a fine line with an Achilles issue of doing enough but not doing to much to send me horribly backwards.  I’m not fully fixed yet but I’ve come to a careful balance of “if I don’t feel any worse, it’s a win” .

Actually, I’ve been using a method that is recommended by many running experts which is a run/walk method. It’s great for a newbie to start getting acclimated to running and protecting from over injuries of doing to much to soon.

The same theory works for a wounded runner easing back into it. The idea being not to over do and let your body adjust to the rigors of being on the road again.

If you’ve never done it, it works something like this. You might start off with a strong, brisk walk and do that for awhile, then start adding in maybe, 10-15 second running intervals, then drop to brisk walking again. You just continue to alternate this through your miles. Of course, the plan is a gradual increase in running time.

Mentally, I have to really keep myself in check from not letting myself run to fast or to long. It’s hard when I know what I’ve done and what I’m capable of doing and keep it reined in to my current needs.

All that to say…as a distance runner… it’s hard to not long for that time on the road. It becomes a craving.

distance running

Last week I had gone on a 9 mile jaunt and wondered why I had not just gone the full 10 ( again, baby steps) I know mileage increase needs to occur in small increments to not have set backs or to make injury worse.

Actually I finished with my Garmin saying 9.10… which left me with that thought.. why not have just finished it out to 10?

It’s how runners think.. what’s another mile?

Runners are a weird, wonderful lot.

I never thought that till I became one. It’s funny how you start thinking about things. How you look at things.

Things that start to feel normal to you, but if you speak it out loud to non-runners, they give you that raised eyebrow look or simply tell you that you’re crazy.

Right there is one of those very thoughts…

When you tell a runner they are “crazy” it’s like, one of the coolest compliments you can give us. It means.. you are insane and I’d never even think of doing such a thing but I really admire you for your craziness.

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Mileage. If we are coming down the home stretch to where we will finish our run and realize our Garmin is telling us we have only a quarter mile or less to roll to the next mile, you can bet we are gonna make that next mile roll over.

One does not simply stop running that close to hitting the next mile 😉

We spend more on our running shoes than anything else we put on our feet.

It’s the truth. Not only do we spend more, we will wear those suckers out faster than any other shoes we put on our feet.  And we go right back and repeat the process. If we have a brand and model we love we look forward to and anticipate when they newest model will come out.

Next to shoes, it’s clothes. They can be bright, colorful and sometimes very noticeable. We often wear minimal clothes. Running, that’s hard work and gets your inner heater going. The clothes can be as pricey as the shoes.

running clothes

We view injuries as a total inconvenience to our running schedule, training and future plans instead of worrying about how we may have beat ourselves up.

We view hills as something to overcome and rule over.  If we’re worth our salt, they become a part of our training ground.

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I caught myself in this one the other day talking to my husband about my recent 10 miles out…

” My run was only 10 miles”

It’s like… as a runner your thinking shifts and you see some things as perfectly normal and no big deal…

Then it hit me.. 10. Miles.

That is a flipping long way.

True, I’ve gone further. The half, full and ultra marathon were definitely lots longer distances.

10 miles during training for those events was nothing.

But when you casually talk about a cool 10 miles before breakfast…. you realize…you’re weird and that normal people aren’t out doing that.

Your foam roller becomes a new best friend. Or in my case, I now roll out on a pvc pipe. It’s a wonderful “hurts so good” feeling sometime. But oh so necessary to keep muscles loose and pliable.

Some nights my evenings are so exciting watching a favorite tv show and rolling.

Runners willingly pay money to run long distances, in all kinds of weather (cause when you’ve already paid, you run.) We usually get a t shirt, a cool medal to add to our collection and a banana at the end. We push ourselves and if we’re lucky we set a new PR and walk away with the bragging rights for having done it.

banana

Speaking of weather. Yeah, we run in pretty much whatever.  Yeah, we hear you use the adjective “crazy” on us again.

We can’t explain it to you… really… we can’t.

But there is something about running when the weather is less than perfect and you’re out in the elements working against them that makes you feel like… a beast.

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It’s exhilarating.  Trust us. It is.

And miles… It’s how our brains now work. Every where we go we measure things in distance of miles. We think about it in terms of speed and arriving to our destination. We know miles to and from our house, around the block, or our favorite running place. Actually, we could probably tell you to the tenth of a mile the distance.

It’s sick. I know. I’m pretty sure our brains go through a rewiring process or something.

Math. I’ve never been into math. I think it’s boring. I never got the complex stuff in school.  I love words more. Yet, here I am in sports that have me thinking of times and splits and mentally measuring pace and distance to finish when I want to finish. It’s constant, ongoing, mental math.

Oh the irony.

People. Wonderful, supportive people.   The running community is made up of the friendliest, most supportive people I’ve encountered.

Fast, slow or in between we cheer each other on, celebrating each others successes and personal bests. Encouraging when we get derailed and set back. Offering help and advice on training, recovery etc.

Weird and wonderful.

But hey… don’t just take my word for these things. There’s always room for one more runner. Come join us 🙂