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Big news: Bob and I registered for our first ever marathon!  I'm totally freakin' nervous and am honestly waiting to see if I can make it through some of our upcoming long runs before I fully let myself believe I'm really gonna do this thing.

The race is on May 5, so we have a tight training window.  I would have preferred more time to train, but we really want to do this race, so we have about 11 weeks to prepare.

We did our first long run this past Sunday.  We scheduled ourselves to do 9 miles.  It was SUPER COLD out yesterday.  Like, insanely cold!!  It was about 17 degrees and windy.

This is me as we got ready to start the run.  I am wearing 2 pairs of tights, my shorts, 2 longs sleeve shirts, plus my parka, my gloves, and a ski mask.  And I still felt numb for most of the run.  

About half-way through my entire phone just cut off.  My Jillian Michael's podcast, my Nike+: gone.  I actually handled it so much better than I have when this has happened in the past.  In the past, it has pretty much ruined my run to lose my music.  I thought for sure I was going to be dying on this run, because it was so grueling, especially running uphill, into the wind.

BUT, that didn't happen.  I don't know if it was because I super motivated to have the run over and done with, but I actually sped up.  And I felt great!  Minus the mind-numbing cold, of course.  We ended up running 1 more mile than planned, so finished at 10 miles, and I actually felt as if I could run an additional 3 miles to make it an even half.

It was a very interesting experience, that run.  There were moments where I sort of hated life.  My nose was a faucet, it was brutally cold, and Bob was so happy, which made it kind of even harder.  Him with that big ole grin on his face!  At one point, I was pretty sure I never wanted to speak to him again or anyone else on the planet for that matter.

But there were these other moments when my legs were just moving in such a complete rhythm and I felt like I was charging through space, charging the atmosphere.  The fact that I felt like I could keep going at the end sort of made up for all of the times in the middle when I wanted to give up.  I'm really not sure how in the world I'll do 26.2, but I'm really interested in finding out.


Bob and I had a brief email exchange where I referenced the idea of him "building a base" in regards to him gaining some knowledge related to computer programming and subsequent coding, and it just sort of struck a chord with me, this idea of "building a base."

The thing is, I started to think about how the notion of building a base is something that can be applied to all areas of our lives.  

We think of it in terms of running in the way that we can build a base upon which to train and progress.  You log a certain number of miles and then from there you add to that, working up to achieve a certain goal.

Well isn't this something that we can do in so many areas of our lives?  We build a base of knowledge in terms of technical or professional skills, whether it's educational degrees or hands-on, lived experiences.  We hope to grow from there, to build on top of that in order to reach ever-evolving goals.

We also build a base in terms of our relationships, both within our own personal development and our interactions with others.  

I don't really know where I'm going with this.  It's just so interesting to me how so much about running translates into metaphors we can apply to our entire lives.

Yeah, just another reason why I love to run!

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Lunch!!

Super tasty!

Leftover chicken pad thai -- rice noodles, thinly sliced chicken, sliced carrots & peppers, yummy sauce, topped with fresh cilantro and scallions.  I inhaled this lunch!  Also grapes and chickpea chocolate chip cookies.

 
It's only Tuesday, but so far it has been a great week!  It actually starts with last week.  Last week: for some reason it felt incredibly long to me.  Perhaps it's because we spent the week prior at Disney World, so it was pretty hard to adjust to going back to work in cold, dismal Blacksburg.  We also seemed to experience all of the four seasons last week.  One day it was in the 60s, the next day it was icing and snowing.  One day it was a bright blue sky, the next it was dark all day.  Last week felt like a year.

BUT!

I worked out all five work days last week, and that made me feel awesome!  It's true that I think I only did a 10-minute high intensity interval thingy on the treadmill on Friday (that's all I had time for), but it still felt great just to make it into the gym each day and stay on routine.

So far, I've made it into the gym both days this week too, and I've had awesome workouts.  I haven't really had time to do more than 30/45 minutes each day, but I've packed a lot into each session.

The thing I'm most excited about?

I have a goal to do 1 chin up (unassisted).  Each time I'm at the gym, I go to the bar and try to do a chin up.  Usually I just sort of hang there and strain to pull myself up.  Well, today I managed to pull myself up just at tiny bit.  And that tiny little bit felt amazing!!

Also, I did 12 push-ups in a row!  This a pretty big accomplishment for me.  That was my first set.  The reps went down with each set, but each time I pushed myself to complete as many as I could before my arms felt like they were going to give out on me.

So I'm just feeling really good today.  The kids sort of stressed me out a little bit this morning, and mentally I wasn't in a super great place when I pulled into the gym, but once I got there and got into my zone, I worked some things out and am left feeling refreshed and recharged for the day.  Yay!

Here's my workout:

H-Squat Machine -- 50 lbs., 4 sets, 12 reps
Inverted rows -- body weight, 4 sets, started with 12 reps then did about 10, 8, and 6
Push-ups -- body weight, 4 sets, started with 12 reps then did about 9, 6, and 4
Prowler -- 180 lbs., 4 sets across the room and back
 
So now that this busiest of seasons is behind us, I am pausing to think about "New Year's Resolutions."  

Everybody is making resolutions right now, and it's something I enjoy doing as well.  A year to two ago, I started making resolutions that I knew I had a good chance of accomplishing: things like, try more new recipes, knit more, etc.  I think it's fun to pick things you enjoy, and then you do feel good about yourself when you do them, and you feel good from multiple perspectives.

I read a blog post recently about how making big resolutions about changing something you don't like about yourself or quitting something or giving up something or dieting or what have you -- a lot of these things set you up for failure, because (1) they are negative and (2) they are big changes that happen over a long period of time, and when people see them as just one "thing" they can accomplish, they get discouraged when that change doesn't happen right away.

I thought that was really insightful, and it made me thing about my own personal journey into fitness and health.

My journey started in January 2011, pretty much as a New Year Resolution, but the spark and the real change that took place was when Stephen was born and a mental switch was flipped.  That switch was simply believing in myself.  It seems like such a simple thing, but it is probably one of the hardest things that people struggle with.

I say this all the time, but it is just so true.  When Stephen was born, I believe that I was reborn.  I new confidence started growing in me that day in August, and by January it had learned how to walk and it was starting to contemplate running.  By January, I knew that I wanted to lose the baby weight from my *first* pregnancy.  I also was thinking about running the 3.2 for 32 Run in Remembrance.  It was at that point that I joined Sparkpeople.com and started hearing a lot about the Couch to 5K.  Right after that, a friend told me she was going to do the c25k.  I started doing it with her, and for the first time (ever!) I didn't hate running.

I think this new feeling towards running (I wouldn't go so far as to say that I *loved* it at that point), was due to the fact that the c25k is so gradual, and that relates back again to the fact that big changes actually have to take place gradually, over time.

And guess what!  I didn't lose any weight.  That's right.  I went for a really, really  long time without losing one damn pound.  Again, big changes = really gradual, over time.

The c25k is not a very rigorous cardio workout.  For the majority of the time, you're alternating walking and running, and really don't do more than 30 minutes, including a warm up and cool down.  And there were some days when I barely made it to the gym.  There were days when I would go (with my totally awesome running buddy, Steph!) and would only do 18 minutes.  Some days it might have even been as few as 10 minutes.  Barely enough to justify going to the gym, changing clothes, etc, right?

But all of that c25k training was SO IMPORTANT.  Because it gave me the confidence to know that I could run 3.1 miles without stopping.  It was gradual and took a long time, and I wasn't seeing a difference on the scale, but it gave me confidence and it established a routine.

While I didn't see any freaking change on the scale (which I will admit was frustrating), I could see that my muscles were changing.  I had new muscle definition in my legs, which was a huge motivator.  I also knew that I felt better when I was running.  It had a huge impact on my emotional and psychological well-being.

I started running at a time when Stephen was experiencing horrible ear infections.  He was allergic to one of the antibiotics and the other ones were not very effective for him.  We went through about 3 month where he was waking multiple times a night, crying inconsolably.  It got so bad, the doctor injected him with antibiotics, a procedure that was pretty traumatic for me.  Needless to say, Bob and I were not getting a lot of sleep, and I was an emotional wreck.  Lack of sleep makes me a pretty angry person, and I wasn't in a very good place.

Something about the running, even as little as 10 minutes a day, helped me deal better with everything else that was going on.  It's hard to express how much it helped, but I can say that running was definitely better and cheaper than therapy for me.

So even though I wasn't seeing any difference on the scale, I kept running, because it facilitated for me, things that I quite possibly had never quite felt before: a strong sense of self-confidence and peace.  Certainly, I had not experienced these feelings in quite this way before.

It took over a year for me to lose 4 pounds.  I got back to my pre-Taylor weight in time for his 4th birthday.  I had to increase my running, and I had to change what I was eating.  It's just a fact of life: there really isn't enough cardio in the world if you are eating more calories than you're burning.  And I did not (and still don't) consider myself an unhealthy eater.  

I lost the four pounds with a lot of running and some fairly minor dietary tweaks.

Since Feb. 2012, I have lost more weight, but more importantly, I have shifted my focus and my energy into being a healthier person.  I'm not trying to diet.  

This past summer, I started strength training, and that has made a huge difference.  My body shape has really changed, I have more muscle definition than I've ever had in my life, and MOST importantly, I physically feel that best I have ever felt.  

I have tried to cut out a lot of processed foods from my diet, and I think it has had a major impact in every area of my life.  I think my moods are more stable, I have more energy, I tend to not get sick as often and when I do it's fairly short-lived, my digestive system is more stable.  It has just been such a positive change.

The strength training has also been a gradual process.  When I first started, I felt like a total weakling and like everyone in the room was watching me and thinking I was a fool.  But I just told myself, everyone has to start someplace.  Each person in here had to make a decision one day to walk into the gym and pick up a weight.  And then they made the decision to go back the next day.  And the next, and so on.  And each of these people has probably felt foolish on more than one occasion.  The only way for me to stop feeling like a weakling is to go back each day, and so that's what I do.  And I realize that this is a lifelong process.  There are still some days when I totally look the fool.  I mean, seriously, one time my awesome trainer had to come over and point out to me that I was trying to push the prowler backwards.  I couldn't get it to move, and I couldn't figure out why!  It's because it was backwards!  Luckily, I have a pretty good ability to laugh at myself.  You've got to be able to laugh at  yourself and say, yeah, sometimes I'm an idiot.  And I'm okay with that.  If you're now willing to make a fool out of yourself, you're going to miss out on a lot in life.

So anyway, this long and rambling post had a point, I think.

My journey started at about 10:45 p.m. on August 23, 2010, doing something I never thought I had the strength to do.  Sometimes, all you need is just to truly believe in yourself.  It's not something anybody else can do for you or give you.  You have to find it in yourself.

Sometimes, you can find or create that confidence just by following through on something every day, even if it's the bare minimum of what you can do.

Small changes, gradually, over time, can amount to big changes.  They did for me, and I am still setting new goals every day.

I remember seeing a quote that said that goals are things you may not be able to accomplish.  If accomplishing them was guaranteed, they wouldn't be goals, they would be tasks.  That really resonates with me, because I think it emphasizes that feeling of confidence one can get from achieving a goal.  Achieving a goal is not a guarantee, and it means you've had to work hard to reach it.

I'm not quite sure what my goals are for 2013.  Here's what I'm thinking:
  • Accomplish 1 unassisted chin up (then do more!!)
  • Run a marathon (this is definitely one that is not a guarantee)
  • Run in a race with my brother (that would be fun!)
  • Scrapbook more
  • Make more progress in eating less processed (especially in terms of learning how to prepare and get my kids to eat less processed)
  • Actually, I really want to learn more about healthy nutrition for kids and really get my boys on the path to good healthy eating
 
Ugh!  I had a couple paragraphs of very deep thoughts, and I just accidentally deleted them!

The gist of it was that I was having some very deep thinking regarding the joy I feel right now for life in general and how, for me, it is very connected to health and fitness.  I feel amazing, and I also have this strong desire to share this feeling with others.  I don't want to change careers at all; I just wish that everyone could feel this amazing feeling that I feel.

I've become increasingly interested in health and fitness, diet and exercise, and right now I feel the best that I ever have in my life (this was written better the first time!).  Most days, I feel like I have boundless energy.  My spirits are usually very positive, my digestive system seems to be in a really good place, and in general I just feel, physically and emotionally, the best I have felt in a long time.
And then I started thinking about what this transformation started occurring for me; it's so connected with the birth of my second son.  The birth of Stephen truly brought about a rebirth for me.  I am a different person now.  What an amazing gift that was bestowed upon me!

And it hit me: this is why I've never stopped thinking about the possibility of having another child one day.  It's not that this has never occurred to me before -- I remember having a conversation along these lines with Bob when Stephen was about 6 months old.  But, I think I had sort of forgotten that this was such a powerfully motivating feeling for me.
That event was earth-shattering, life-changing for me.

It's like I've been on the most amazing drug ever since Stephen was born.

Who wouldn't want to go through that experience again?  Who wouldn't want another "hit," so to speak?

I guess the question boils down to, is it enough for me?  Do I need to go through that experience again to continue feeling the effects of this amazing drug that has never worn off?

I'm not sure that I do.  I tend to think that I can channel that energy into being the best possible mother to those two boys.

It's important to remember that there have been, and continue to be, a lot of ups and downs with this whole thing, too.  Motherhood hasn't always been rainbows and endless cups of fro yo.

But I've fallen in love with Taylor, and it was love at first sight with Stephen.  I cannot deny that there is still love in my heart to give.  Now it is just a matter of understanding and figuring out what to do with that love.
 
A couple interesting things happened on my run this morning.

First, while I was running uphill, I was passes by a (very fit) mom running with a double-running stroller, which had two kids in it (larger than my own children).  I was kind of upset to get passed by someone pushing a stroller up a hill.  She really smoked me, too.  I went through a series of thoughts/emotions:
  1. tried to catch up
  2. hated myself
  3. hated her
  4. thought, not only am I a bad runner, but I'm also a bad mother since I'm not running with my children
  5. reminded myself not to compare myself to others but to focus only on myself
  6. felt pride over my own accomplishments
  7. finally, felt pride for this woman, for being able to have kids and still be able to kick some serious ass running up a hill.  Good for her!


So that was my own little emotional battle whilst running.

And then, as I'm nearing the end of my run and really just chugging along trying to get it over with...

I swallowed a bug!  

Yes, I swallowed a freaking bug.  But it didn't happen quite that quickly, no.  It was a bit of a spectacle.  First, I'm running along, minding my own.  Then, a bug flies straight in to the back of my throat.  I stop and start to try to hack it out.  This then gags me, and I start to wretch, like I'm going to throw up.  This then makes me feel like I'm going to pee my pants.  I end up crouched on the ground, trying desperately not to pee myself, hacking, and swearing.  I finally realize the only thing for me to do is to swallow that damn bug.  So I did.  Not without shouting out a few more obscenities.

So that was how my day started.

The good news: I got in an awesome run.  About 5.5 miles in about 50 or 55 minutes.

Later today I'm going to take the boys to Krogers so that Taylor can look for a "squishy killer whale thing" that he "hid" somewhere in Kroger the last time we were there (which was at least two weeks ago).  This should be an interesting experience.

This is my life.  Kroger squishy whale scavenger hunt.  I really hope we find it; otherwise, this little boy is going to be very disappointed.  Oh well.
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Taylor posing with a time capsule, downtown.
 
Monday's Session (June 18)
  • Bear Squat machine (cool name, huh?!).  (45 lbs. on each side) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • stiff legged deadlifts (50 lbs.) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • chest presses (12.5) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • dead rows (30 lbs?) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • lat pull downs (50? 60? lbs.) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • The Prowler (45 lbs. on each side) (3 sets)
  • push out ab thing (30 lbs?) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • arm raises (5 lbs) (12 reps, 4 sets)
 
Here's what I did today:
  • 35 lbs. (each side) of H Squats (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • stiff legged dead lifts (50 lbs. for first set, 50 lbs. for remaining 3 sets)
  • chest presses (12.5 lbs.) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • seated rows (60 lbs.)
  • step-ups (20 lbs. for first set, 15 lbs. for remaining 3 sets)
  • arm raises
  • push-ups (learned how to do it properly)
  • jack-knives
  • stairs
 
One thing that is stressful to me is the uncertainty I have when considering the best way to start training for a half-marathon but still continue doing the small amount of strength training that I have recently incorporated into my workout routine.  The truth is, I'm not even sure what to do with the basic running and strength training I'm doing now, much less a good plan to do 1/2 marathon training.

So I've been researching, and I think I may be getting closer to a plan.  I am finding this site extremely helpful: marathonrookie.com.  I've considered a couple of different training options, but I think I am going to go with the one from this website, and I'm tweaking it just a bit so that our long runs take place on Friday.  This will put us having a rest day on Mondays, which I think could be good.

I also really like the site's page about weight training when training for a half.  I may do a few variations with the exercises, but I am definitely going to be using their page as a basis for my workouts.  The site recommends using relatively low weights, which is how I'll start.  I'm listing the exercise below for future reference:
  • Bench Press (2 x 12): You should perform two sets of twelve repetitions. Use weight that you can easily complete two sets of twelve repetitions without the assistance of a spotter. I am not saying to not use a spotter, rather that your spotter should not have to assist you in completing these two sets.
  • Dumbbell Curls (2 x 12): Use weight you can do two sets of twelve repetitions.
  • Lat Pulls (2 x 12): Use weight you can pull down and finish two sets of twelve repetitions.
  • Back Extensions (2 x 12): Do not use weight for this one. For marathon training, simply performing the exercise in enough.
  • Sit-Ups (2 x 15): Repetitions can really vary on this one depending on your choice and how easily you can do sit-ups. This can be a confidence booster if you can tone your abs. Just be smart and do what feels comfortable.
  • Crunches (2 x 15): Use your judgment here and let your body tell you whether to do more or less.
  • Leg Extensions (2 x 12): This is a great exercise and will help build your leg muscles and will help your knees feel stronger.
  • Leg Curls (2 x 12): This is a great way to strengthen those hamstrings which are very important for marathon runners.
  • Calf Raises (2 x 12): Strengthens the calves which you may find to be quite sore after those long runs.

I will probably end up doing planks and other types of ab work instead of crunches and sit-ups.  And if I have time, I might consider doing 3 sets of each exercise.

I plan to do these exercises on my off days from running, and I will probably take Saturday as a total rest day, so I think that may put me at doing strength 3 days a week, if I stay as consistent as possible.

I'm looking forward to trying out these new exercises and this new routine!