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Monday, April 24, 2017

Triathlon Training with a Bum Shoulder

This weekend I took the first step toward triathlon training and participated in a 3-hour swimming workshop focusing on technique and drills that should be the cornerstone of how I am to prepare for a half-mile swim. To sum it up: I'm a decent freestyle swimmer, but my breaststroke is so bad that I look like I need a lifeguard to blow a whistle and tell me I'm cut off. Until I took this workshop, I thought I was proficient enough in all four strokes. Nope. Not even close.

Actual photo of me trying not to drown after three hours of
I have a shoulder injury that has been bugging me for nine years and counting, and I was relieved that the swimming neither bothered it nor did I feel any increased shoulder pain when I woke up this morning. My physical therapist friend took a look at it recently and confirmed it's in pretty bad shape, but unfortunately, there's not much I can do other than maintain flexibility and mobility until I'm ready to make peace with the idea of a surgeon cutting into one of the most important joints in my body. Surgery poses its own risks, though, so that is absolutely a last resort for me. For now, on the bad days I just live with chronic pain and take Ibuprofen when it flares up to the point where I can't sleep. On the good days, I barely notice it.

Extended Forearm Stand
Mother of Pearl Cami and Rockstar Shorts by INKnBURN
I'm sure it doesn't help that I spend a disproportionate amount of time practicing circus tricks like the pose above, but the yoga really helps keep my shoulder strong and flexible with careful, controlled movement. As long as my arm moves up toward my ear, I don't feel pain. I have to be careful with certain movements when opening my arm out wide and rotating it around from the joint. This might be part of the reason I find breaststroke particularly miserable. 

Two swimming sessions per week for the next few months was my coach's recommendation to be ready for my targeted triathlon. It's going to take some schedule-wrestling for me to work this into my weekly workout plan. Don't even get me started on the fact that I still have to 1) get a bike; and 2) actually ride it. 

The last time I rode a bike I was in Germany for the summer sometime in college. I may or may not have fallen off the bike in front of a ton of people while trying to navigate my way off a ferry, and there may have been more than one person laughing at me. This was before smart phones, thank goodness; otherwise, I'm fairly certain I would have ended up an internet meme sensation. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Humor: Don't Be This Yogi

I love Mondays because my favorite yoga instructor teaches a power vinyasa class in the late evenings. Every time I attend her class, I walk out of the hot room with my entire body feeling like putty. While I enjoy my quiet, at-home yoga practice (which is particularly great this time of year because the warmer temperatures mean I can do yoga in my backyard), nothing beats the dimly-lit 105° room filled with mirrors that prove I am capable of sweating enough to drown myself in the massive amount of sweat I produce in the span of one measly hour. Honestly, I think the amount of liquid pouring from my body during a good yoga session has the power to scare small children and grown adults alike.
Basic Side Angle Pose; Sarape Top and Skirt by INKnBURN
But that disgusting note aside, I had this comical set of thoughts rolling through my mind yesterday as I flew from Phoenix back to Seattle after a quick, whirlwind family reunion weekend. As a stupidly anxious flier (even though I *know* I'm safe), I usually have to pull out an entire bag of tricks to keep any looming anxiety attacks at bay. The flight was bumpy, and James got hit with what we think is a case of food poisoning just before boarding, so he was either busy accosting the single lavatory in the back of the small jet or writhing in agony in the window seat next to me. It was bad enough that I can't even make a joke about the dreaded MANCOLD.

In short, I had to occupy my hyperactive mind with a stupid movie that I won't bother naming, a glass of wine, and a list of my favorite yoga pet peeves, which I'd like to share:

  1. The vocal yogi. You know which one I'm talking about. It's the person who moans and groans during every move. I find the moaning particularly annoying. Look, it's tough. I get it. But if you must be vocal, limit the use of noise to a few per practice or find a yoga place not specifically advertised as a "silent" room.
  2. The I-am-so hot yogi. You know, the one checking themselves out in the mirror during every single pose. The occasional glance to check one's form is fine. The gawking is a little overboard, especially when duck face is involved. 
  3. The let-me-take-a-selfie to show off how awesome I am yogi. Oops... I might be this one *cough*. Just not during class. Does it make it a little more bearable if I can make fun of myself? #sorrynotsorry
  4. The smelly yogi. None of us smells particularly fresh during yoga practice in humid, triple-digit temperatures. That said, if I can smell your B.O. from six feet away, you need to pay more attention to your personal hygiene. We're supposed to be breathing through our noses during practice. Don't make this more difficult than it already is. Namaste. 
  5. The over-extender yogi. You know who I'm talking about... the person who can sloppily make their way into an extended pose while skipping the basic just to prove they can do it, then they look around to make sure everyone sees them doing it. I sheepishly admit that I have been this person, and trust me, it's way cooler and much better practice if you surrender the ego, slow down, and breathe into each part of the pose before taking it to the next level with control. It can be even more impressive if you skip the extended pose and focus on having a strong and properly-aligned basic. #liveandlearn
  6. The close-quarters yogi. I have personal space issues, so nothing annoys me more in the hot room than when someone lays their mat down too close to mine. I'm fine with having close neighbors during busy classes, but if there's plenty of room, there's no need to be bunkbed mates. I like to extend my arms without bumping into other people, and I have freakishly long arms. 
  7. The gawker non-yogi. I rarely see this happen (thank goodness), but I always find it irritating when I see someone in there checking out all of us in our yoga tights. Don't be the guy or gal who goes to yoga with the intention of finding a date. We're there to practice yoga, not to have our backside checked out by a creeper. 
  8. The farting yogi. Yup, I went there. One little slip is a forgivable offense, and I especially can't hate on postpartum moms because I know how rough it is having babies. If you let more than one rip, though, I hope you have the good sense to avoid eating chili, broccoli, and onions before going to your next class. If you feel a toot coming on, fake feeling spent and peacefully drop down into a relaxing tight-cheeked pose until the urge passes to let it blow.
  9. The sick yogi. Look, if you're suffering from a little sinus pressure or some sniffles, I totally understand how therapeutic and medicinal sweating through a hot yoga class can be. However, if a massive amount of snot is draining out of your face, you're coughing up a tuberculosis-infected lung, or you're running a fever, please stay home. Don't be that jerk who gets all of us sick. You never know which one of us is a teacher or new mom or has a compromised immune system or an elderly parent at home, and exposing us to your infectious disease is just flat-out irresponsible. Stay home, drink some hot soup, and call your doctor. Don't be the sick yogi in class. Just don't.
  10. The judgmental yogi. You know, that person who is supposed to be focusing on their practice, but they're secretly noticing the groaning, farting, body-odor and coughing peeps around them and plotting writing a blog post about it... #BUSTED 😂  
With all that said, my ego has calmed down extensively during the last few years of practicing yoga. While I used to always notice everyone around me, I rarely feel distracted by others these days. Instead, I really try to focus on the breath as I'm supposed to, and if I'm not feeling an extended pose, I stick to the basic one. It makes for a much more peaceful and rewarding practice.

Dancer Pose
Fire Rooster Top and Feather Capris by INKnBURN
Happy Monday! And if it's not a happy one, try adding some yoga to your day.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring Break Outdoor Shenanigans

My girls had Spring Break last week, so I spent the last several days trying to keep them off the screens and out of the house as much as possible. It never ceases to amaze me how much their moods improve once I get them outside.

Trials = Happy Faces!
We live less than a ten-minute drive to some of the most beautiful mountain trails, so last week we braved the rain and mud and went for a few-mile hike paired with my daughters' first trail running experience. While they are no strangers to hiking, we have never actually taken them trail running before because for some reason I thought it'd be too much for them. I was wrong.

Yes... their shoes are almost as big as mine. 
The trail is steep, so we hiked to the topmost part then carefully ran through the slippery mud on the way back. My girls loved it and seemed to find it as fun and enjoyable as I do.

While I was raised hiking most weekends by my outdoorsy parents, I never tried trail running until I joined my high school cross country team. Of course, with an undiagnosed heart issue I was a terrible runner, and I found the trails particularly challenging but intriguing. A couple years ago when I joined a running group, though, one of the coaches took me out onto the very trail pictured above and talked me through how to survive running through the mountains. I've been hooked since.

Recently, someone asked for advice because she is considering trail running. I gave her my two cents, but after thinking about it, I have a lot more to add. Here's a short list of some valuable lessons I have learned:

  1. Start slowly. Don't worry about how long it takes to complete each mile. You might run an 8-minute road mile and a 14-minute trail mile, and that's okay. Give yourself permission to run slowly. If you feel great halfway through, then you can pick up the pace. 
  2. Be a little over-prepared. Sometimes that 7-mile run turns into an 11-mile run. Always bring extra water, some bandaids, and an energy gel or bar.
  3. Hike the uphills. There's no reason to torture yourself. Hiking up those hills can be faster than trying to run up them while preserving your energy and keeping your heart rate reasonable.
  4. Get a backpack-style or an around-the-hip hydration pack. I love my handheld water bottle, but having the water attached to my body is so much more comfortable when I'm on the trails. It also leaves my hands free for when I stumble or need to hold onto a branch for stability. 
  5. There's no shame in needing a buddy. Some people love solo mountain running. That's awesome. I am not that person. I'm a total scaredy-cat and feel much safer with other humans nearby, even if it's just my two daughters. I'm more afraid of people than anything the mountains have to offer, but I really believe there is no shame in recruiting a running buddy.
  6. Take smaller steps. This is a good running tip in general, but I find it to be critical when trail running. Keeping your feet under your body is especially helpful in maintaining balance on rocky, uneven ground.
  7. Know the trail before you go. Map out that trail before you venture into the woods. Save a photo of the map on your phone in case you get lost mid-run. It happens to the best of us.
  8. Tell a friend where you plan to run. Safety 101. Obviously. 
  9. Trail shoes aren't a necessity. Don't get me wrong, I love my trail running shoes; they're more rugged, have better grip, and handle mud well. However, it's okay to run trails in your normal running shoes, too. If I'm running a trail race or longer route, I wear my trail shoes. If I'm only running a few miles, I often opt for a pair of running shoes I'm about to retire. They're usually a little more supportive and cushy. 
  10. Wear wool socks. I've made the mistake of wearing regular running socks on trails multiple times, and I always want to kick myself when I do. When it's 30-something degrees and you step in a puddle of near-freezing mud and water, your numb feet will spend the remainder of the run screaming at you. When you plow through a small creek because there is no other alternative, those Smartwool socks will maintain their shape and keep your feet from blistering. Been there, done that, learned my lesson. Just trust me on this.
  11. Respect your comfort zone, but don't be afraid to challenge it. I find trails to be a unique opportunity to trust myself to go further and harder than I've ever considered going. There's a good chance that I'll sign up for a mountain marathon before doing a road one simply because I feel less afraid to challenge myself on trails than I do on the road. 
  12. Pause and enjoy the ride. Trail running is beautiful. I've ran through rainforests and deserts, and both are equally rewarding. When fatigue begins to settle in, I love to give myself a boost by slowing down, drinking some water, and taking in the beautiful surroundings. 
Me in my happy place.
Capris and Hoodie by INKnBURN