You Spin My Head Right Round…13.

I haven’t decided which is harder, lacing up my shoes and walking out the door or running the actual 11 miles. The mental game is often times more difficult than the physical. I psych myself out, I find all of the excuses, I conjure up tummy aches and knee pain. I fall into the thought pattern that I’m just too tired, I wouldn’t be able to put 100% into it, so why should I do it? The mental struggle is real.

This round of half-marathon training is no different. I am currently in week 5 of my 13th round of training. Holiday Half, here I come! You would think that 3 weeks of zero running while in Central America last month would restart all of my motivation. (More on the trip later.) Not the case. This round of training has had an entirely new focus: speed. I am going to PR this next half-marathon. Track workouts once a week, tempo run once a week and a long run. I’ve gone from lifting heavy 6 days a week with intermittent running to focused running 3 days a week, lifting heavy 3 days a week and one active rest day.

It looks a little like this:

# Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 9/20-27 Track

8×100

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

7 L Off
2 9/28-10/4 Track

6×200

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

9 L Off
3 10/5-11 Track

8×100

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

5.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

11L  Off
4 10/12-18 Hill Rpt

5×30sec

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

12 L Body

Weight

 

5 10/19-25 1,2,3,4-

321

Ladder

 

LD 2

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

13 L Body

weight

6 10/26-11/1 Hill Rpt

8x30secs

LD 3

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 T Chest

Back

Core

9 L 3-5 E
7 11/2-8 8×100,

4×400

 

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

7.5 T Chest

Back

Core

15 L 3-5E
8 11/9-15 1,2,3,4,5

4,3,2,1

Ladder

 

LD 2

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

13 L  Off
9 11/16-22 8×100

 

LD 3

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

5.5 T Chest

Back

Core

11 L 3-5E
10 11/23-29 4×400

 

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 T Chest

Back

Core

9 L Off
11 11/30-12/6 8×100

 

LD Any

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.5 T Chest

Back

Core

7 L  Off
12 12/7-13 Rest or

Stretch

6.5 E Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.1 E Chest

Back

Core

REST! 13.1!

 

Track days included a mile warm up and a mile cool down in addition to 4 different dynamic stretches like walking lunges, squats, butt kickers etc.

Each of our gym days are a concentrated power hour in the specified muscle group. It’s heavy lifting and a killer challenge. The tempo run is typically 50% of that week’s long run and it is done at a 10k pace. The long runs on the weekend are generally run naked. That is, without a Garmin or headphones, so I can disconnect and actually remember why I love running.

Like I had mentioned, this round of training is focused on speed. I truly want to get better. But, let me tell you, the track workouts are a reality check! I consider myself an adult most of the time. I hate adulting, but I didn’t think there was much 5 year old left in me. I was wrong. Jess, the small child, comes out during track workouts. I must have thrown 3 temper tantrums during an hour workout. There was so much negative energy, pouting, arm crossing and throwing myself down on the ground. At one point, Eli made the mistake of asking how I was doing. I wailed, “I’m f*&%ing AWFUL!”

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I do give my best effort though. I push myself into asthma attack oblivion. I push beyond my comfort zone. That 5 year old can be quieted if I focus on the track in front of me. I keep my head up. My wings out. Thank you, Oiselle.

It’s all going to make me faster, right?

All of my complaining and failed adulting aside, I actually like track workouts more than I do tempo runs. I have the hardest time motivating myself to push hard for that many miles. Anyone else have such a complicated relationship with running?

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I am looking forward to seeing the improvements in my running. By designing this challenge, I knew it was going to kick my booty. I knew there were parts I was going to hate. What is that adage though, ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.’ I’m ready to change. I want to run faster.

I also want to keep the balance. I love running. I love running for the mental clarity, for the run highs, for the happiness. I love running to discover new trails and to both lose and discover myself. When I push myself to run faster, I lose that joy. It becomes solely about getting through the workout and not the joy of the run itself. I’m working to find joy in the challenge.

Maybe it looks like this:

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Or, perhaps this is just what a break during a long run looks like.

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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…

abs

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.

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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.

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

ndoaM

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):