Sunday, October 23, 2011

Able to Leap over Tall Piles of Dirty Laundry

After finishing up week six of the "Couch to 5k" program, I have to say I love the flexibility. Just three days a week doing a workout that can be done in a variety of places - treadmill, nature path, indoor track, or outdoor track.  And, with the exception of a treadmill, I've tried them all. So easy to fit into my busy schedule.

Wrapping up week six yesterday, my goal was to simply run for 22 minutes straight. Easy-peasy, right? This time, I brought my runner son, Christopher, along to keep me company. Typically the slowest of my boys, I thought it wouldn't be too difficult for him to stick with my snail-like pace. After all, the goal of the day didn't say anything about speed, just 22 minutes or 2.25 miles.

The weather was sunny and unseasonably warm. I suggested the nature path, but Christopher said he preferred the outdoor track at the high school. Deal. Off we went.

Now, I have been running on the indoor track at our park district building (12 laps/mile). It's been easy to calculate the mileage for each day's plan. A quick recalculation on the outdoor track told me that I'd have to run nine laps on it to reach 2.25 miles - or 22 minutes, whichever came first.

We set out, chatting along the way and doing our best to dogde the goose poop littering the track.  After four times around, a quick glance at my watch told me that it had taken 11 minutes. Not bad. I would've given anything for a swig of water, though. The sun didn't feel like it was beaming down on us with that much heat when we started, but I felt like I was starting to roast. I kept trudging on, though, not aware that I had slowed down considerably.

That I was able to carry on a conversation with my son should've been a clue. We covered everything from favorite classes to possible Christmas presents to what's going on in Libya and why. After completing three more laps, I glanced at my watch and saw that we had hit the 22 minute mark.

Parched, I stopped dead in my tracks, bent down to grab my water bottle and gulped half of it. We walked the remaining two laps as a cool down.

Cheating? I don't think so.

As we were walking back to the car, I thanked my son for joining me and asked, "So, how was the pace for you?"

He politely and very respectfully admitted that he could've gone a little faster.


"And that's why you're my favorite," I explained to my bewildered boy.

"Next time," I continued, "go as fast as you like. Once I get the distance down, I'll have to work on my speed."

But that, my friends, is an entry for another day...

Six weeks into this program, one thing still stymies me. When I was in college, my roommate and I ran the circumference of our rambling campus quad for a half an hour, six days a week. At the end of six weeks, I had lost my freshman fifteen and a little more.

Granted, this time around, I'm a little (cough, cough) older and only running half as many days/week, but the results I'm seeing are no where near as drastic. I'd like to blame my lack of a thyroid gland, or even that I've had five kids, but the plain truth is, I've been sedentary for too long. Still, the simple observation that my mid-section is no longer expanding horizontally is enough to keep me going.

And it is getting easier. After every work out, I feel incredibly accomplished. Building up my endurance is just adding to my already awesome super powers, right?

This notion is starting to have a positive affect on other areas of my life as well. The thought of plowing through five loads of laundry is no longer daunting. Challenges at work are kept in proper perspective. Four people speaking to me at once no longer riles me and, best of all, I think I'm calmer in traffic (except, of course, when I encounter people who have no intention of doing at least the speed limit while driving in the left lane, people who text and drive and all of those fancy-schmancy cars that apparently don't come equipped with turn signals).

OK, so I have a little room for improvement. Onto Week Seven. Three days of running for 25 minutes straight?

Bring it!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Just Call Me "Prefon-Mom"

As of 8:05pm this evening, week five of the Couch to 5k workout plan is behind me.

Tonight, after the usual warm-up, I ran for 20 minutes straight!

I know. I can hardly believe it myself.

My chest wasn't burning, I didn't feel like throwing up afterwards, and it didn't take me half an hour to recover. In fact, I probably could've kept going, but didn't want to push my luck.

I ran the first two workouts of the week at the indoor track (easier to track my mileage). But tonight, I was running for time. Outside, in the wild. Mileage wasn't important. For all I know, I covered a quarter mile. Maybe half. Maybe two. It just doesn't  matter.

Did I mention that I ran for twenty minutes straight?

Whatever I call myself - runner, jogger, shuffler, I'd like to give a shout out to my coach (my nine year old, James - aka "Prefon-James" after running legend Steve Prefontaine).  Our school district held a fundraiser yesterday morning. It was cold and it was windy, but my little man ran six miles around that track and his time held steady with each lap. What a rockstar!

Also, my knees want to send a huge thanks to my pal Marianne for reminding me to make sure I'm landing on the ball of my foot, not my heel. Thanks to her, I am ending this week pain-free.

Three more weeks and I'll be running for three miles straight.

Just call me "Prefon-Mom"!

Friday, October 7, 2011

While the Spinner's Away

Shhhh....don't tell anyone, but I'm sneaking away for a girls' weekend in Baltimore. Aside from business travel, I've never gone away alone anywhere since I've had the boys. Staring at my one measly suitcase, I can't shake the nagging feeling that I'm forgetting something, or someone.

But, I'll get over it.

While I'm off reveling in the company of my sister and niece, I'm not going to worry about whether the large contingent of males holding down the fort will scratch even one item off of the lengthy to-do list I've left behind.

I just hope that I don't return to find the casseroles I've made still stacked neatly in the freezer. Further, I do not want to find a sink full of dirty dishes next to which is stacked a mountain of emptied microwave popcorn bags. I'm hoping to not have a pile of laundry sitting there unfolded on the family room couch to greet me when I walk through the door. And, last but not least, I do not want to have to go grocery shopping as soon as I return.

Maybe I should leave them a "to-don't" list instead...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Halfway There

I have just started week 4 of the "Couch to 5K" training program. It's still a little hard to believe that in four more weeks, I'll be running three miles straight.

Since I'm half-way there, I think it's a good time to step back, assess and ask for some advice.

First, I'd recommend this program to anyone looking to get fit. It's easy to stick with and the payoff, while by no means drastic, is noticeable fairly early on. That's a big incentive for a lot of people, me included.

I started this program for a variety of reasons, the least of which being that I couldn't find a bathing suit I liked this past season, so I am stuck with my old one that has become a little too tight for my liking.

Nonetheless, I am now spinning my plates with more vigor and, when they're shelved, I'm sleeping more soundly. Since I haven't changed my diet, I can only assume that it's because of the exercise (and maybe the fact that I'm usually too tired at the end of the day to eat anything).

While I think back and smile at how I was struggling to run for a minute straight a couple of weeks ago, this week's workout is a ginormous step up from last week. Per the program details, last week's maximum length of sustained running time was three minutes. This week, it's five minutes. Not a big deal, right?  Nonetheless, I was glad other people were at the track, just in case. Each time I huffed and puffed my way around the track, the defibrillator affixed to the wall stared at me, silently reminding me of my sad physical state.

But I survived and I'll repeat it tomorrow and Friday.

The only downside so far is my right knee. I found out a couple of years ago that the pain I was experiencing was due to arthritis. Thankfully, the pace of the program has kept it at bay, but I know it's there, waiting to pounce.

Since I'll have to run for 8 minutes straight next week, I'm looking to any and all seasoned runners out there for some guidance.

Should I get one of those wraps to secure my knee as I run? Should I be running on a different surface? Should I look at getting new running shoes that offer better support? Are there any exercises I could do to strengthen my knee?

Thanks, in advance, for your input.

Finally, I'd like to give a shout out to some special people who inspire me to keep going - my special needs son who managed to pull a PR during a bad rain storm that hit during the middle of his race last week and a couple I know who just completed their first marathon. You guys rock!

Until next time, happy trails...