Do It For The _____________.

 

Do it for the __________.

Why do you do what you do? When I embarked on this 6-week fitness challenge, I asked myself this. Each day, when I would get ready to workout, I would set my intention. Am I doing this to be stronger? To prove to myself that I can complete a challenge? Am I doing this for the after photos? The endorphin rush? Or am I simply doing this for me?

Whatever it is, there must be some kind of motivating factor. Otherwise, why would we do anything? We have to have something that is helping to kick us in the ass to say, you can do this. There needs to be an answer to the question why. This is exactly why there are cupcakes at the end of every race that I run.

The challenge kicked my ass. Prior to this, I would go to the gym and grab weights of the 5-15lb variety. Leg day consisted of body weight squats and running. To go from this to lifting heavy, and even doubling up days? Yikes. And supersets? What in the world are those? Needless to say, I learned a lot.

My why was all of the above; I wanted to prove to myself that I could complete a challenge, get stronger, and hopefully see some gains. I wanted to learn more about lifting, about strength training, and the discipline required. The endorphin rush was an added bonus. And yes, I was keen on seeing what kind of awesome before and after photos could become of this. Who wouldn’t be?

But honestly, the after photos weren’t as dramatic as I’d hoped they’d be. Before I go any further on the photos, watch this Buzzfeed video on faking before and after photos:

When the day came to take the after photos for this challenge, I was so excited to see the change I felt reflected on camera. Not the case. Not only had I just tried 3 different types of new protein that week (which all failed and gave me terrible bloating and indigestion. Yay bloat belly for photos.) But, the lighting was all wrong, and where the hell did my muscle definition go? I have abs. I can feel them! And, I swear there are biceps there that weren’t before.

 

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Awkward posture and terrible lighting, but there you have it! While the visible difference isn’t much there, let’s talk about how much different I feel; in the end, that is what really matters.

First of all, I feel so much stronger. Not only physically, but mentally. Muscle has started taking the place that fat used to occupy. While I did not lose any inches or pounds, I watched as muscles started to tighten up and define themselves in ways I’ve never seen before. Suddenly, I have triceps when I flex, and I can feel firm abdominal muscles under that troublesome layer of fat. And, oh my quad! I have these muscles that have taken shape around my knees. And my butt…well, I’m definitely happy with it. Here’s a ridiculous gym selfie to prove my point.

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Second, I feel happier. Not just the endorphin-addicted way. Not just because I feel myself getting stronger. Not just because I had another girl at the gym compliment me on my butt last night. No, it is because I make time each and every day to take care of me, whether it’s running, lifting, writing, or just taking a few minutes to just sit still. I took those first 21 days of the challenge and formed a habit. I take care of my body, so it takes care of me. I feel good. And when I feel good, I look good. It is amazing what a little self-confidence can do. I know I’m not at all where I want to be, but I’m working on it. Rhinocorn, remember? I suppose that is the third; I am more confident. I’ve developed the confidence to keep pushing myself to work towards new goals, to continue to try and fail and try again.

So often I feel as if I’ve become a stereotype of my generation. I always seem to expect instant gratification. When I started this challenge, I was so excited to get that sought after six-pack and defined shoulder muscles by the end of the challenge. I woke up every morning and ran to the mirror like this guy…

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I had to take a step back with my impatience and realize that good things come in time. Good things, result things, come to those who work their asses off. That takes time. That body I want, the one I’ve conjured up in my head, is going to take years to attain. And that is perfectly okay. I’ve learned this: Embrace the change. Embrace the changes I’ve made in my habits. Embrace the change I am seeing in my body shape. Embrace the fact that my ass is too big for my jeans, and I’ve now ripped two shirts because of the gains I’ve made. Embrace the happiness that comes from the progress I’ve made.

Jumping off my soapbox now. All I have to say is this: Love your body, please. It is your temple, your home, the only one you’ll ever own.

****

Here’s a little glimpse into what I did for the 6-week challenge.

The Program

  • Monday, Tuesday: upper body (arms, chest, shoulders)
  • Thursday, Friday: lower body (legs, butt, lower back)
  • Saturday, total body
  • Wednesday, Sunday: cardio
  • First day, higher reps (15-25) and lower weight
  • Second day, lower reps (4-8) and higher weight
  • Abs 3-4 days/week
  • At least 3 exercises per muscle group
  • 1 minute cardio acceleration between sets

 

I have a lovely chart if anyone is interested in looking at the list of exercises that I did each week. It was kind of fun to chart progress! Here’s a glimpse at small, measurable improvements I made:

Before: 2 push-ups, 0 pull-ups, 0 tricep dips, benching 50 lbs. max, squatting 100 lbs. max

After: 15 push-ups, 5 pull-ups, 7 tricep dips, benching 105 lbs. max, squatting 205 lbs. max

 

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Next time you want to try something new, a challenge, a training program, a different skill, ask yourself, why.  Whatever the reason is, remember the most important one: Do it for you.

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Marathon Training and Less Complaining.

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What do you do when you’re stressed out? Do you reach for the large spoon and the jar of peanut butter? Lace up the running shoes and take it out on the pavement? Grab a pen and write it out? Grab some iron and work it out?

I’ve not posed a question to my readers before, but I’m honestly curious as to how everyone handles stress. So, lay it on me! I’ll even put the peanut butter spoon down…

I think I do a combination of all of the above. But, not all at once. Week 3/15 of spring semester of dental hygiene school has just finished, and I already cannot believe the length of my to do list. Numerous projects, six board exams, many clinical hours and long days. Oh, and did I mention round 4 of marathon training?

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This was my, “Let’s rock this!” face before taking my first board exam last weekend. Nerves and coffee had me a little excited. Anesthesia written exam is complete. And I aced it! I’m ready for my next 5 exams! -Or am I? Next up is my clinical anesthesia board at the end of February.

Today begins week 3 of Round 4 of marathon training. This time around, my focus is on injury prevention and keeping my sanity. As aforementioned, I’m busy. You’re busy. We are all busy. Isn’t that the point? We’re always busy. We’re always moving, doing, thinking, planning. But we are never too busy. I am a firm believer that if it is important to us, we will make the time. This goes for anything: meditation, relationships, eating well, studying, sleep. Not just running or exercise.

With this in mind, Round 4 of marathon training has been created with the intention of balance. My previous training plans have included running 5-6 days a week with only the mere thought of cross-training in there. This time though, I’m only running 4 days a week and spending 3 days a week cross training at the gym. This is in hopes of providing a more rounded training plan without completely fatiguing my body. I’m currently compiling a good runner’s workout, and hope to be able to share what I come up with soon!

As for the running, I’ve taken and tweaked a number of marathon training plans, and formed one that actually works for my schedule. Sundays are my long, slow, distance, (LSD) run day with the runs ranging from 12-22 miles. Saturday is my mid-pace run with distances from 6-10 miles, depending on that week’s mileage. Monday-Friday is a little bit up in the air, as my school schedule does vary. I just make sure I get at least two days in at the gym, a fartlek run, and a hill repeat or mid-distance run in.

A fartlek run is basically ‘speed play.’ For me, this means running for one minute and sprinting for 30 seconds and then repeating this for the duration of the run. Yikes. With hill repeats (HR,) I run to a pretty decent hill near my house. I sprint (or, erm, run hard while thinking that I’m sprinting. When, in reality, I look like a turtle wading through peanut butter) up the hill and then walk/light run back down. I repeat this however many times specified.

Here’s a gander of what training is going to look like (Clearly subject to rearrangements and many changes…):

We Run For Cupcakes Marathon Training Plan

W Date Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 Jan 12-18 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45min Hill Repeats 5x  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 12
2 Jan 19-25 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 14
3 Jan26-Feb1 Gym Gym  Fartlek 30-45 HR, 5x  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 16
4 Feb 2-8 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8 Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 18
5 Feb 9-15 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 HR, 6x  Rest Mid-pace 6-8 LSD 20
6 Feb 16-22 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 16
7 Feb23-Mar 1 Gym Gym Fartlek 45-60 HR, 6x  Rest Mid-pace 6-8 LSD 22
8 Mar 2- 8 Gym Gym Fartlek 45-60 4-6  Gym Mid-pace 6-8 LSD 16
9 Mar 9-15 Gym Gym Fartlek 45-60 HR, 7x Rest Mid-pace 6-8 LSD 20
10 Mar 16-22 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 18
11 Mar 23-29 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 HR, 8x Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 16
12 Mar 30- Apr 5 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 14
13 Apr 6-12 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 HR, 6 Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 12
14 Apr 13-19 Gym Fartlek 30-45 Gym Gym  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 10
15 Apr  20-26 Gym 4-6 easy No run 3-4 easy No run No run RACE!

 

*****

A moment of gratitude. In the 2 1/2 years that I’ve been a runner, I’ve never been able to coerce someone to run or train alongside me. Granted, I’ve had many a runner join me in the same race. I’ve helped spark that running fire in a number of wonderful people. I have also had runners that are training for the same race. But never someone following the same training plan, experiencing the same agony  joy that I am.

I am so thankful to be able to say that I have a training partner with me to prepare for the Bend marathon. The same guy who kicked my butt at a 6 week fitness challenge is now getting his butt handed to him with marathon training. He is now part of the We Run For Cupcakes team. We do our Monday-Friday runs on our own, as the half-state distance between us prevents us from doing everything together. We then run Saturday, Sunday together.

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This was completing our first week of marathon training together. Tired, sweaty, smelly and exhausted, I was so elated to have someone running by my side!

 

Let me be honest, though. I don’t always love running with someone by my side. Especially long runs, when I just tend to tune out.

We just finished week two of marathon training. We ran 14 in Forest Park on Sunday. I’m never a very happy camper the first 3 or so miles of any run. It takes me about that long to settle into the run, and the self-talk is generally of the negative variety. Never mind the fact that we were also running those first 3 uphill.

I’m not a very competitive person. At least, I don’t consider myself one. Until a certain someone comes along with natural running talent and can just bound up these trails without being winded, while I’m back here wondering if someone stole one of my lungs.

That’s what happened Sunday. First 3 miles. Uphill. I’m trying to calm my mental demons and settle into a steady rhythm. And yet, it is all I can do to keep up with Eli! I’m thinking to myself, “Hey man, these are my trails. This is my domain. I was going to teach you about running. Why are you already showing me up?” The inner 5 year old in me screamed, “It’s not fair!”

No, no, I didn’t say that out loud. I surely was thinking it though! He did the smart thing and ignored my complaints. We laughed about it later, when I finally settled into the run. Maybe I am competitive…?

So, here it goes, here it goes again. Marathon training, round 4. I’m very much looking forward to this challenge in physical fitness and balance of time and energy. At this point, I don’t have a time goal in mind for finishing. Ideally, I would love to finish in under 4:30.

Bend Marathon, here we come!

 

The Earth, My Butt, And Other Big, Round Things.

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I had a conversation with my legs yesterday. And my butt, for that matter. I was at the gym. I’d just completed another grueling, 2 hour workout of lower body and abs. I caught my reflection as I walked into the aerobics room to return my bosu ball. I looked at myself and thought, “hey, is that my butt? -Damn, these squats are doing me well.”

First of all, I’m not conceited, nor do I think I have a perfect body. But, I realized something as I stood in front of that mirror for a full minute, checking myself out; I love my butt. I’ve been fortunate enough to be one of those girls that has always had a bit of a booty. For the first time in my life though, it’s a strong booty. And the tree trunks underneath them? They’ve become just as strong. The phrase ‘working my ass off’ doesn’t apply here. I’ve been working my ass on to get these legs and this butt.

This transition has not been without growing pains. A couple weeks ago, I realized, one, only a single pair of my jeans still fit me, and two, I cannot continually wear yoga pants in public. So, I went shopping for jeans. Oh dear, what an adventure. To realize that you need to go up a pant size because your legs and backside have become bigger is somewhat of a humbling experience. After 90 minutes of failure, I felt like I needed to have a meltdown. The negative self-talk that inevitably takes over… Ladies reading this, you understand my pain.

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Except, in this case, jeans.

Trying on pants is a real test of the ol’ self esteem. I wish this was a story with a happy ending, but those perfect fit jeans are still eluding me. And, I still rock leggings most days. But I know those jeans are out there….somewhere.

I’m a runner. So, what am I doing spending 2 hours at a time at the gym? Well, it started with this guy:

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A couple glasses of this fermented grape goodness:

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And a challenge.

This challenge included 6 weeks of ass-kicking workouts 5-6 days/week. Two days of upper body in a row. Two days of lower body in a row. Two days of cardio, and one day of all over gym goodness. The point was muscle domination.

Upon first hearing about it, I laughed. It sounded like death. I am a runner. I prefer to be outside, and I loathe the idea of treadmills. Spending 10-12 hours a week in the gym sounded perfectly awful. I can handle 2 days a week in the gym, at most. And the words ‘leg day’ meant a good, solid run to me, not squats and Russian dead lifts.

And yet, the word challenge kept niggling in the back of my brain. Why not try it, I thought. I’ve always wanted to be stronger. Perhaps I could learn a thing or two in the gym. It can’t be that difficult.

Or, so I thought.

Here I am now, with two weeks left in the challenge, tree trunks for legs (ain’t no thigh gap here!), a round booty, and arms/shoulders that are becoming too big for my shirts. In fact…

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This happened. Yes, this is a bathroom selfie. Yes, that is a rip between the shoulders of my favorite shirt. Yes, this is from my lifting gains in the last few weeks. And yes, I did cry a little. I mean, come on. The last thing I remember, I was a runner who rejoiced when clothes became loose. I wore running shorts most days and had no clue how to bench press. A curl was what I did to bring the wine glass from the table to my face. The idea that I could become a strong, fit chick is continually appealing, but it’s taking a mindset adjustment as the clothes get a little tighter in weird places. I went from focusing on electrolyte consumption and carb-loading to getting enough protein and wondering if supplements are the way to go.

On the flip side though, the progress I’ve seen in my strength in just these few weeks is unreal. I can do 3 unassisted pull-ups and 7 unassisted tricep dips, whereas I couldn’t  do any of either a month ago. I went from bench pressing just the bar (45lbs) to breaking the 100lb mark just this week! I am almost ashamed to say this, but I actually enjoy going to the gym now.

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But, how could I not enjoy the gym in a shirt like this? Instant motivation. And an excellent Christmas present.

With that, I give you my current challenge. Before and after photos to be posted after the challenge is completed. (Did I really just say that?)

Next up? Marathon training, round 4, starts next week! I’m comin’ for ya, Bend Marathon!

Here’s a little self-love (but skip to almost a minute in for it to get upbeat):