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Starting from Scratch

24 Jan

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve never been particularly athletic.  Even so, fitness has always played a role in my life.  As a little girl and into my high school years, I relied on gymnastics and cheerleading to keep me in shape. During college, I occasionally ran with friends but mostly gravitated towards the elliptical or stationary bike.  After I graduated and moved to Chicago, I no longer had easy access to a gym, but was fortunate enough to have a treadmill in my apartment. When I first climbed on that machine, I could barely run a mile. I stuck with it, and soon enough, I was addicted.

 

i may not be athletic...

...but at least i look good!

However, I didn’t realize how much I truly loved and depended on running – both mentally and physically – until I was sidelined with two injuries at the beginning of this year.  My left ankle is more fragile than most, and thanks to some well-hidden ice on one of my December-morning runs, I twisted it and did some major damage.  After wearing a bulky boot for three weeks, I was finally ready to slip on my sneakers again. Unfortunately, that night, I was brushing my hair and dislocated my shoulder (also more fragile than most because of a childhood injury). Needless to say, I’m a bit accident-prone.

Unfortunately, these aches and pains kept me out of the race for nearly a month. Now, I have about two weeks before I begin training for the Country Music Half Marathon, which means it’s time to get busy! After my hiatus from the exercise world, I feel refreshed and ready to go, but I also feel like I’m starting from scratch. I think it’s the perfect time to reinvigorate my workout routine using the strategies below.

  • Lately, my favorite gadget has been the Garmin Forerunner 60 watch (which my sweet boyfriend gave me for my upcoming birthday). Paying attention to my pace and heart rate not only ensures that I make the most of every run, but it also helps me to push myself and do better than my previous workout.

 

my new running buddy

(photo: source)

  • When it comes to running, rather than stick with a steady pace and minimal incline for my allotted workout time, I’m depending on interval runs (like this one or this one from Peanut Butter Fingers) to keep me energized and motivated. Looking forward to my workout makes my 6 a.m. (or earlier) alarm that much more bearable.
  • Speaking of my early running routine, I’ve previously been in the habit of only working out at the start of the day. If I don’t fit it in before work (or errands or whatever’s on the day’s agenda), then it doesn’t happen. This time around, I’m doing my best to listen to my body and exercise when it’s best for me – if it’s best for me that day.
  • As much as I love to run, I don’t love getting stuck in a runner’s rut. To avoid this pothole, I’m focusing on mixing up my routine and trying new workouts. Thanks to Groupon, I have two awesome options to help me achieve this goal.  Back in October, I purchased three hour-long sessions with a personal trainer from Basics and Beyond.  More recently, a friend and I bought five BarreAmped classes. This workout combines dance, Pilates, yoga and deep stretching, providing me with a perfect cross-training alternative during my half-marathon training. I have a feeling that both of these experiences are going to kick my butt, but I’m sure it’ll be fun.
  • Because I don’t currently belong to a gym (having a treadmill makes a gym membership less necessary), I rely on hand weights and workout DVDs for most of my strength training.  The newest addition to my collection is Crunch – Burn & Firm Pilates.  I first attempted this DVD with a friend during a weekend trip in Chicago, and let me tell you, I was cursing at the television screen shortly after it started. For me, a good marker of a challenging workout is when I have trouble completing the DVD during my initial attempts.  Plus, it makes surviving the entire thing that much more rewarding.
  • I used to approach food in the same way that I approached my exercise routine: lots of sameness.  Motivated by Bethenny Frankel’s Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting and my own resolution, I’m ready to change that pattern once and for all! Cooking more often gives me the opportunity to try new things and figure out what eating habits make me feel full, happy and ready to tackle the day. It also means that I pay more attention to what I’m eating, which in turns allows me to feel more satisfied with my food choices.

if all else fails...

(photo: source)

Ready to Run!

17 Jan

Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself. – Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I have to admit that I felt more than a little lost as I entered the real world post-college graduation. While my life has always been filled with great people and endless opportunities, I cannot help but wonder what my future holds, which leads me to My Bucket List. What are those adventures I’ve always wanted to take? What are those things I want to do to feel more fulfilled? How do I want to leave my mark and say that, “I was here?” While that last question may take a few (or a lot) more years of living to answer, I can start checking off some of the less-complicated items on my list. There is no time like the present, right?

It is this mindset that led a friend and I to sign-up to run our first half-marathon in April 2009.  To be honest, our initial motivation may have been self-serving – after all, it is a great way to ensure bikini enviability by the summertime.  But soon after finishing the race, I realized that this experience affords us so much more than a beach-ready body.

First, it served as a great “something” to focus on as I survived a chilly Chicago winter.  Post-holidays can be a bit sad for me.  I spend a week or so with my family, and then I return to the doldrums of the everyday working world.  To this end, my scheduled running also acted as a much-needed stress-reliever.   It was a somewhat-confusing and unconfident time in my life – and achieving a goal like this one ensured that I not only make time for myself but also that I rebuild my self-assurance and become an even stronger young woman than I was before.

Finally, strutting through Nashville with thousands of runners (both more and less prepared than myself) allows me an excellent opportunity to improve upon my current workout wardrobe.  I believe that you feel your best when you look your best, and this motto certainly extends to those times when you perhaps look your worst.  I was sweaty, tired and achy as I logged those miles, but I assure you, I was dressed from head (visor) to toe (sneakers) in coordinating black and pink Nike gear.  After all, accessories are a central part of any outfit.

ready, set, RUN!

For a less-than-athletic girl, this pursuit initially surprised my family and friends. Looks of incredulous belief were usually followed by apprehensive notes of encouragement and endless reminders that the most important thing is to do the best I can. Perhaps this self-doubt from others motivated me even more.  Not only did I have something to prove to myself, but I had something to prove to the people I loved most.

Looking back now, I can say…I did it! Two hours, 34 minutes, and 56 seconds later, I crossed that finish line and was filled with immense pride and a bit of disbelief. How did a girl who could hardly run three miles at the start of her training just survive 13.1 miles in the time it takes to watch a movie? To fly from New York to Atlanta? To enjoy a delicious meal in good company?

As I said before, this adventure is not a one-time deal. In fact, it’s time to start training for my fourth half-marathon, which I’ll run with my mama at the end of April. Next time around, my goal will not only be to finish but to beat my previous times and, of course, to always do my best. If you’re up for it, join me!

jamie and i look quite fashionable in our pink attire and glitter headbands.

Hitting the Slopes

13 Jan

Skiing is a dance, and the mountain always leads. – Author Unknown

Today, I skied for the first time in four years. To say that I was nervous is an understatement.  My boyfriend kept telling me not to worry, that it was like riding a bike, and I kept reminding him that I don’t know how to ride a bike. As it turns out, my worries weren’t entirely valid: I survived! I didn’t lose a glove or a pole (much easier than it sounds), and I only fell once (which happened to be while I was standing still) – a successful day in my book.

how do you put these things on?

I first skied when I was seven years old and spent a week or so in Colorado or Utah during each winter after that.  My brother and I would spend our mornings in ski school before being rewarded with an afternoon of skiing with Mom and Dad. Once we got a bit older, we both proved to be quite fearless (Colin more so than me), flying through the trees with not a care in the world.  We were lucky enough to see the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and also spent many a New Year’s Eve in the mountains.  Needless to say, I had a very blessed childhood.

little ski bunnies

family ski day at Deer Valley

Despite my history of hitting the slopes, today was a first for me: I skied with my boyfriend and navigated the mountain without my parents or brother leading the way. Not that there was much navigating. Ross is a man without a plan who tends to make last-minute decisions, and his skiing styled proved to be no different. Even so, he didn’t take me on any deathly runs (although I may have yelled “I’m going to die!” a few times), nearly ran over me only once and led us safely to a ski lift after each hill.

There were a lot of highlights in my day.  By the time we exited the gondola, I had convinced Ross to trade goggles with me because his pair matched my outfit better (very important when skiing in Aspen). The first run that we skied was Dipsy Doodle; the name alone put me in a wonderful mood.  At lunch, I inhaled an oyster po-boy (one of my favorite sandwiches) and convinced my sweet boyfriend to buy me a neck warmer (my complaining can be very charming). But my favorite moment was during a ride up the mountain when Ross looked at me and nonchalantly said, “I’m so in love with you.” Who knew I’d end up with a boy more romantic than me?

not a bad view, huh?

playing footsie on the chair lift

Now, it’s time to drink some hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps and snuggle with my man before I return to the real world tomorrow. Good night!