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Monday, March 27, 2017

Training Pitfall: Overdoing It

A friend of mine dealing with a reoccurring injury recently reminded me of a common fitness and dietary pitfall that I have felt myself fall into on more than one occasion: overdoing it.

How often do we find ourselves becoming excited and feeling pumped about a new diet or exercise, begin it with a bang, and fall off the wagon a few days or weeks into our new trend due to injury or just the inability to continue doing something so drastically different than what we were doing before?

I have always prided myself on being the type of person who is dedicated enough to stick by a new "thing" I decide to adopt. When my friend dragged me to a hot yoga class for the first time, I did it with the understanding that if I found it to be a challenging yet positive experience, it was going to become part of my life. When the same friend convinced me to get off my lazy bum and start running to train for a half marathon, it took me a couple of weeks to commit because I knew that if I was going to run that race, I was also going to stick with running until my legs or my heart give out. Or, you know, until I get hit by a speeding bus... whichever happens first. The truth is, I always wanted to be a runner, but I was afraid of it after being such a weak teammate on my high school track and cross country teams. Learning that I have a minor heart issue, which limits my speed, was a frustrating diagnosis, but it also shed light on why I struggled with running so much when I was younger despite how hard I trained. It also lit a fire in me to press on in the face of adversity.

Yoga and running were both activities that, because I knew I was going to stick with them, I took the "slow and steady wins the race" approach. I started with a once per week beginning hot power yoga class. Even though I wanted to race to the top because it was something I felt my years of dance and background of martial arts made it possible for me to learn quickly, I forced myself to take my time. I didn't go daily. I let the next-day burn in my muscles simmer until I walked it off. I spent time trying to understand how each pose worked, how to modify as a beginner, and months later, I added a second hot yoga class each week. I added running to the mix a few months after I felt like I was getting the hang of yoga, and I started with a 3x/week walk/jog method that eventually turned into a slow run.
I wish I had a "before" photo for comparison. I have
come a long way in the three years I have been
practicing yoga.
Sakura Singlet and Mejiro Shorts by INKnBURN.
Despite knowing that this slow approach usually brings me to what I consider success in a new endeavor, I'd like to share two recent "I failed because I overdid it" examples: 1) I fell off the "Iron Strength for Runners" cliff (remember that post from months ago?); and 2) I didn't make it through my March core workout goal. Not even close. When both of these "oops, I fell off the wagon" examples happened, I felt more apathetic about my failures than I would expect. Considering how driven I normally feel when I set a goal for myself, I was kind of irritated by my own nonchalance. Especially because both goals were something I committed to as necessary cross-training for Ragnar and the potential triathlon I may do this year.

Delving deeper into this attitude, I realized something that seems rather obvious now: when I jump into a new activity full-force rather than taking my time, it is because my expectations are out of alignment with reality. I am expecting immediate results despite knowing that they are both rare and unsustainable without constant maintenance, and my practice is ego-driven rather than coming from a place of desiring true self-improvement. I want to look and feel the end result without committing to the good, bad, and ugly of the practice necessary to achieve the goal. When this is my mindset, I will inevitably fail.

True change takes time, commitment, character, and a letting go of the ego that often drives us. With this in mind, I realize now that the only way to become stronger is to start over. Rather than doing the full 60-minute Iron Strength workout or the daily core strengthening workout, I need to back off and start slow.

"When ego is lost, limit is lost. You become infinite, kind, beautiful."
                        - Yogi Bhajan
New goals:

  1. Iron Strength workout for 20 minutes once per week until it becomes habit, then slowly increase.
  2. Forget about adding a separate core workout for now. Cover that workout with yoga practice and Iron Strength instead.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Product Review: INKnBURN Long-Sleeved Pullovers

In celebration of SPRING(!!!) I have to give a shout-out to my favorite active wear company for making the perfect cold-weather top that has accompanied me on nearly every winter run I did during this last (very long) cold winter: INKnBURN Pullovers.

Wildflower, Lotus, Crane, and Monarch Pullovers
I don't like to be cold, but I've also learned my lesson when I dress too warmly and wind up miserable and feeling overheated when I run. This winter, I discovered that INKnBURN's Pullovers are the perfect balance of warm, breathable, moisture-wicking, and comfortable in addition to being gorgeous works of art.

Feeding my addiction to bright colors!
My first pullover was Crane, which I ordered after checking the weather for the Tucson Half Marathon and saw that it was going to be much colder than I had anticipated. At first glance, I thought the colors and design were a little patch-work-looking with just a touch of quirkiness, but the reviews were extremely positive, so I decided to give it a try. Spoiler: Even though you're not supposed to wear something new on race day, it was love at first wear and I ended up being ecstatic about the colors and artwork.
Happy "I PR'd" Dance!
After my Tucson Half Marathon PR, I was hooked. Soon after, Monarch and Lotus arrived.

And now I might need a support group, because last week Wildflower joined the party:

Good thing I didn't face plant. That would have hurt.
Confession: I may or may not have ordered another one during their moving sale last week because, you know, I clearly needed more. *cough*

Okay, so I realize I'm a little ridiculous with my Pullover Addiction, but here's why I can't seem to get enough of them besides the obvious of how beautiful and fun the colors and designs are:
  1. The material and craftsmanship is top-notch. The inside fabric is incredibly soft and very cozy-feeling against my sensitive skin, and it never leaves me with chafing. I'm one of those unfortunate people who ends up with rashes and chafing any time fabric touches me, so active wear clothing must be made with quality fabrics, and seams have to be flat and made with soft stitching for me to be comfortable. 
    Look at that perfect seam and soft fabric!
  2. They're amazingly versatile. I wear them for running, hiking, taking walks, as a skiing base layer, grocery shopping, as my shirt for the day regardless of activity, and for sitting on cold bleachers with a cup of coffee while watching my daughter compete in early morning gymnastics meets. 
  3. They have thumbholes! I am a huge fan of thumbholes because I like to have the backs of my hands covered in cool weather, and I appreciate that they keep the cold air from blowing up my arms while running in the wind. The sleeves are fitted enough that they slide under gloves without bunching and are stretchy enough that they fit over gloves if I prefer to wear them that way. Bonus: I can read my watch through the hole if I choose not to use the thumbholes. 

    I regularly check my distance this way.
  4. The arms are long enough for me. I am long-limbed, and I'm finicky about where sleeves hit on my wrists. Because of the thumbholes, these tops have ample arm length. 
  5. More than one size fits. I absolutely love this about INKnBURN - most people can wear more than one size in just about every piece they make. All of their clothing is stretchy, so you can almost always size up or down. I wear a small in their regular tops, but I like to size up to a medium in the pullovers because I frequently wear a base layer underneath. I love that even though the bigger size is roomy, it's cut so that it doesn't look bulky or awkward on me.
  6. They layer beautifully. Sometimes I wear these alone, other times I wear a Smartwool base layer or tank underneath. Unlike some running pullovers, I've never had an issue with these riding up or bunching awkwardly during motion. They also fit nicely under a running jacket and under hydration packs. The material is smooth and not bulky at all, so it doesn't catch on other fabrics worn over it. 
  7. The back is always just as beautiful and artistic as the front! I am always disappointed when tops have a pretty design on the front and a plain, boring color on the back. I never have that problem when I wear one of of my INKnBURN pullovers!
    Wildflower Rear View
  8. These tops wash incredibly well. Each of my pullovers gets worn for a workout at least once a week, and I wash them after every use. The fabric does not fade, and every one of them looks and feels like it did when it first arrived. Seriously, they look brand new. Considering I run double-digit miles through mountains in these tops, that's pretty amazing. Bonus: they wash clean and none have that funky armpit smell problem like some tech fabrics get after multiple washes. For the record, I use Nathan Sport-Wash for all my active wear. 
  9. They stay put. I get easily irritated when I have to tug on my clothing to keep it in place mid-run. Recently, I did a demo run in a long-sleeve top (in a brand that shall remain unnamed) that kept shifting around and left me readjusting it every few minutes. I was so annoyed. However, the experience left me that much more grateful when I wore one of my pullovers on my next run and I forgot that I was wearing it because it was so comfortable and stayed in place. 
  10. The fabric is moisture-wicking and breathes. Last week I went for a tempo run on a sunny day with temps in the mid-to-upper 50s, and I really should have been wearing a short-sleeve shirt because those temperatures feel downright warm with the sun beating down after a cold winter. Stubbornly, I wore my new Wildflower Pullover because it had just arrived. I warmed up quickly, but I could feel the cool breeze through my top and my body temperature stayed regulated. I was surprised by the end of my mileage that I wasn't very sweaty and that I'd felt comfortable even in the warmer weather. 
If you're wondering where you can get one of these amazing tops, check out the INKnBURN website. They make them for both women and men, and there are still some in stock in a couple of the patterns. If your size isn't available, keep checking back for new apparel. It is a small company and their products are not mass-produced so there is limited inventory, but they come out with new tops and bottoms all the time. If you happen to purchase one of their products, let them know I sent you. As I've mentioned before, I am an Ambassador for the company and I love getting the word out!
Happy yoga girl! It's finally warming up a little!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tips for Remaining Active in Gloomy and Rainy Weather

The Seattle area has a reputation for being notoriously gloomy and rainy, but I actually consider this a bit of a misconception. In the several years that I have lived here, I've learned that even though the forecast may call for rain, it's often for only part of the day, and frequently the clouds clear out to let some beautiful sunlight through. Our summers are sunny and gorgeous, and spring and fall are usually quite beautiful. Even during the winter months, I often find plenty of sunny or at least partially sunny days to soak up some Vitamin D.

That said, it has been a particularly gray and damp couple of winter months with average rainfall quite a bit higher than usual. Even though I'm a huge fan of the rain and don't mind the gloom for a few days in a row, I admit that this has been a tough winter and I am officially ready for some sunny skies.

Staying active is critical to keeping my mental health in check, and it's especially important with the dark and gloomy weather. So how exactly does one stay motivated to exercise when it makes more sense to hibernate with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book by the fireplace? I often talk to others about how difficult it can be to get yourself out the door with less-than-ideal weather conditions, and I feel like I have found some pretty good tricks for getting myself outside even in the worst of Seattle weather:
  1. Create an activity/workout schedule. Write it down on your phone calendar, and use reminders that annoyingly chime at you when it's time to get moving. Carve time out of your day and set it aside for working out. Knowing the activity is planned and seeing it on my schedule makes it very difficult for me to ignore, and having a set plan really helps me be successful in getting out the door even on the worst of days.
  2. Plan to meet a friend (or several). I cannot recommend finding a running group or a workout buddy enough. It's so much easier to get myself out the door when I know that my friends will be out there suffering in the pouring rain with me. Remember: misery loves company.
  3. Dress for the weather. I've mentioned this on more than one occasion because it can make ALL THE DIFFERENCE between a good run and a horrible one. Invest in a good running jacket specifically made to handle the wind and rain. Get yourself a good base layer for those cold days, find yourself a decent pair of tech running gloves, and buy that dorky buff and running beanie to protect your neck and head from the elements. Embrace the running gear and accept that you're going to look a little ridiculous and mismatched sometimes. It's worth it for the comfort.
  4. Sign up for a race (or several). In the middle of winter. Yes, just do it. Accept that it's going to be cold and likely a soaking wet set of miles, but having a goal gives meaning and purpose to those awful-weather training runs.
  5. Cross train the heck out of the winter. Give yourself a break from the cold and find a hot yoga class to try. Accept that it's going to hurt and applaud yourself for doing it anyway. If yoga isn't your thing, try something else: CrossFit, Zumba, barre classes, swimming, tennis, a pilates or aerobics video, heck - even a stairclimber. There are so many options for cross training, and you don't have to break the bank or even leave your house to sneak a quick cross training workout in. 
  6. Have a back-up workout plan. Running through a thunderstorm isn't a bright idea. Trust me, I've been that idiot. If severe weather hits during your planned workout, have an alternative plan ready to go. My backup is to either hit up a power yoga class or make it an impromptu ABS DAY. 
    My core was on fire, hence the constipated-looking strain
    on my face. Robot Capris and Crane Shirt by INKnBURN.
  7. Follow the 10-Minute Rule. I wish I could credit the original brain behind this idea, but alas, I cannot remember where I read it. One of my favorite tricks on the 'but I don't want to do this!' days is to tell myself, "Look, Self, give it ten minutes. You can handle ten minutes of near-freezing rain and wind in your face. After ten minutes of this heinous torture, you can turn around and tell me 'I told you so'." Honestly? I have never once stopped at that ten-minute mark. Ten minutes is enough time to get your body warmed up and past that initial full-body moaning and groaning, and it's also enough activity to get those endorphins fired up, which totally fake you into believing that the cold torrential downpour you're running through isn't so bad after all
  8. Give mud a chance. Don't be a hater. Everyone deserves a little love, even unattractive terrain. If you know it's going to be wet and gross outside, why not add a little mud to the equation? Find a trail, squeeze a pair of gators onto your ankles, and go splash through some muddy puddles. Consider it a right of passage and high-five your running buddy. Remember to take selfies. Bragging rights, y'all. 
    Obligatory trail-running selfie.
  9. Plan a date. My weekend running group meets for coffee and donuts after our morning long-distance run, and the thought of a coffee date on a runner's high is often enough of a motivator for me to get my rear end out the door even on a miserable cold and rainy morning. 
  10. Stalk your weather app. I'm a huge weather geek and always have one eye on my weather apps. Even though the prediction calls for rain, it often does not necessarily mean it will be raining all day. On most days I manage to find a mostly dry or light-rain spot predicted at some point. If you have a flexible schedule, have your running gear nearby and get outside when your app says there is a low chance of showers.
I'd love to hear your tips for getting outdoors when the weather is uncooperative. Some days I still struggle to get myself outdoors, so new motivation is always appreciated!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

(Hyper) Active Family

I am far from being a perfect mother, but one thing I feel I have done well is pass on my love of being active and eating healthy. My oldest daughter is a dancer and distance runner, my youngest is a dancer and competitive gymnast who busts out an occasional 5K like it's no big deal. Both took years of swimming lessons and are very strong swimmers, and we often take them hiking, on walks, or on bike rides.

It's a bird... it's a plane... nope, it's my gymnast kid!
Both James and I are a little... er... hyperactive, to put it lightly. Honestly, I'm not certain that my kids know that it's not the norm to always be running or doing yoga, dance, hockey, or going to CrossFit (those last two are James' weekly hobbies, not mine). In a world where it is so easy to sit on one's rump in front of screen, I am relieved that my girls are always excited to do something active.

As I continue to ponder the decision to do a triathlon this year, I continually remind myself that what I chose to do sets an example for my kids. If I face my fears of swimming in (cold) open waters and training for something I consider extremely challenging, they will see that I am neither afraid to push myself to the limits nor of trying something out of my comfort zone. I like that idea, so I'm just going to keep telling myself that I need to do it until I commit.

When I asked my little one below if she would do a triathlon if she were me, she narrowed her eyes and shrugged her shoulders and said, "Yeah, sure." You know, as if it were no big deal.

My little dimpled sunshine!
Healing Mandala shirt by INKnBURN

Monday, March 13, 2017

Pondering: Triathlon Training

A running buddy of mine is a triathlon coach and has asked me if I was serious when I mentioned last year that I might be interested in doing one this year.

When I think about jumping into a cold Washington lake and swimming, then biking, then running after swimming and biking, my reaction is something like this:

Just kill me already.
Last year I decided 2017 is going to be the year I do a triathlon, and it has finally occurred to me that WE ARE ALREADY IN THE MIDDLE OF MARCH 2017. If I'm going to do this, I have to commit and start training now.

I'm not a bad swimmer, but I have difficulty making time to do laps at the nearby pool, which is only open for lap swimming after 9:00 p.m. during the week. And to be completely transparent, I haven't been on a bike since college... so yeah, there's that minor detail.

As I mull the decision over in my head, I have this sneaky suspicion I'll end up taking the bait and doing it.

Have you ever trained for a triathlon? What tips and advice do you have for a potential runner considering doing one?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Happy International Women's Day!

I come from a very traditional family with the engineer dad and the stay-at-home mom. Both worked hard to raise their three kids, and both saw the value in saving money to send us to college. I am forever grateful to my parents for everything they did to ensure that my sister and I would have equal opportunities to those of our male counterparts in this world.

It is unfortunate that despite our education and experience levels, my sister and I have consistently fought through the professional world with less-than-equal pay, being called derogatory terms by men such as "sweetheart" on the job (true story), and dealt with a blind eye turned to our contributions while men tried to take credit for our work. 

I don't want that for my daughters, and I do everything I can to teach them by example to never accept anything less than equal respect and treatment. Although I do my best, there is always room for improvement. 

Happy International Women's Day to all the amazing women in my life.

I think I feed her too much spinach. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Constant Battle

Yesterday, I ran the Seattle Hot Chocolate 15K. Finally healed from a raging sinus infection, I was a little worried I would have some difficulty with this race, but I ended up finishing with a decent and consistent pace. Unfortunately, about four miles in I realized my old nemesis had crept into the race, which made the last several miles a bit of a mental fight for me.

Tachycardia is a pain to deal with. Recently, my resting pulse rate was so high that I scared my doctor until we had the "oh yeah... remember? This is normal for me..." conversation when my heart was pounding at a rate higher than 100 PBM just sitting on the exam table. A little white coat syndrome knocks my already-quick resting pulse to what some runners experience during a warm-up jog.

The cardiologist I met with years ago did a number of tests and monitoring then determined that while my pulse is indeed rather fast and that I do struggle with heart palpitations, my heart is healthy and activities such as running are safe as long as I don't overdo it. His recommendation was to ensure I am properly hydrated. Beyond my morning black coffee and a little wine on the weekend, I'm a water drinker. If I'm not gulping water, I'm sipping hot decaf tea. When I explained this to the cardiologist, he told me that water is simply not enough to keep me hydrated, and that I have to be drinking something with electrolytes. I've mentioned before that NUUN is my go-to electrolyte drink because it's the least sugary-tasting supplement I have found to date (sugary drinks gross me out - hence my hate for sodas - instead, give me all of the salt!!).

Well, despite prepping the day before by drinking NUUN, I realized about four miles into yesterday's race that my stomach was beginning to ache in that way that means my pulse is too high. Glancing at my watch, it was reading 180 BPM, which is high even for me. My legs felt great, my breathing was even, but dammit - my heart always gives out long before the rest of me feels tired.

I forced myself to walk through every aid station so I could gulp down two cups of NUUN and chase it with a cup of water. By the time I reached the 6-mile mark, the race had turned to downhill but my pulse was still much higher than it would normally be. After hydrating carefully at each aid station, though, the pain in my stomach went away and my chest no longer felt tight.

The mental struggle was tough. Because my legs and the rest of my body felt good, I wanted to speed up during the last half the way I normally do during a race. I couldn't because my pulse was having difficulty slowing down to my body's "safe zone".

Nevertheless, I felt proud of how I did yesterday. The Seattle race is extremely hilly and difficult, and I managed to keep my overall pace at a 9'43"/mile average (according to my GPS) despite everything going on. I felt pleased that I was able to push the ego aside and hold back on the speed even though my legs begged to run faster. I also learned a few things, which I'd like to share.

  1. I should probably follow up with a new cardiologist. It's been awhile and my overall physical condition has changed quite a bit since my last appointment. Collapsing mid-race would be stupid if it's avoidable.
  2. Running the long, intense uphills without stopping was something made possible by all the mountain-training runs I've been doing this year.
  3. My endurance is increasing, and I know this because the middle of the race, which was all uphill, felt better than the first few miles once I got my heart rate under control. 
  4. I still dislike running downhill; I find it more exhausting than uphill running, oddly.
  5. I need to measure the amount of liquids I am consuming the day before a long race from now on. Obviously, I didn't get enough the day before, and this could have been avoided.
  6. I looked awful during this race. Like, seriously stressed out. Usually, I'm smiling in all my photos, but the look on my face is pretty accurate to how I was feeling. Because I have no shame, I'm sharing one of my official race photos so you, too, can get a good laugh. You have to zoom in to see the bags under my eyes and the straining in my throat. 
See those folks in short sleeves behind me?
It was 37°F with a cold wind. They're nuts.
Also, my awesome Crane Tights are from
INKnBURN, naturally.

I didn't previously mention this because I chose to focus on my tachycardia today, but I also want to share that my daughter ran the 5K the hour before my race began, and she rocked it, of course. This was taken post-race, which is a little more flattering than my end-of-race photo.

Me and my awesome little runner kid!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Vacationing at Lake Louise

Last week my girls had mid-winter break, so we took the opportunity to vacation somewhere we have never been before.

Nope. Not Photoshopped... that's a real place!
If you have never visited Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada and you enjoy being outdoors, it's a Bucket List must. We stayed at a hotel next to Lake Louise and our week was full of snowshoeing, skiing, ice skating on the frozen lake, and hiking with crampons attached to our snow boots (I might be guilty of laughing at the name "crampons").

Lake Louise Frozen Over
As much as I love Seattle and generally like the weather (yes, even the rain... I love the rain), I was hoping to escape to someplace warm for the week. Hawaii is a direct flight from here, but the prices were outrageous this time of year and the hotels were mostly booked already. Instead of heading south for warmer weather, we made the decision to embrace the cold and head to Lake Louise, which is a little less than a 12-hour drive from us.

Despite my best intentions of keeping with my normal training, I fell off the wagon and didn't run at all on vacation. No treadmill. No yoga. Forget the normal workouts. Instead, I spent everyday outside trying new things.

Don't let the confident smiles fool you...
I'm not a real skier, but James isn't too bad at it.
I have only skied once before and the girls were brand new to the slopes, but we managed to have a wonderful time. Skiing has always scared me because I'm a giant chicken who is afraid of heights, speed, and losing control. I dislike being afraid and anxious, so I looked that fear right in the eye and told it to take a hike. And guess what? Not only did I survive and enjoy it, but I learned that I'm not too bad on a set of skis. All that yoga and dance balance work seemed to keep me on my feet and off my rump.

A family of adventure-seekers!
While skiing and other snow sports aren't really a big deal to a lot of people, I have to say that I feel very proud of myself for trying something new. It's easy for me to get lost in my regular routines of life, and stepping out of my comfort zone is always a wonderful reminder that opportunities are endless and worth seeking out.