Monday, April 27, 2009

The Hurdler Wannabe

So remember back in March when I went to the Al Rosen Tri-Fitness Camp and got my butt kicked by a bunch of track and field hurdles? Yeah, that was awesome. Well, about six weeks had gone by and I just couldn't get it out of my head how:

a) I really need to practice so I do a better job next time,
b) I really need to practice so I do a better job next time, and
c) I really need to practice so I do a better job next time.

So, since the bruises on my legs had finally gone away, I decided it was time to add some more. I put together my PVC hurdles (thanks to Al for the instructions on making my own) and headed to a park near my house to run the gauntlet.

I'd been putting this off for a while, kind of due to time restraints and kind of due to fear restraints. I mean, running at full speed only to trip over a hurdle and fall onto the ground is painful. Unfortunately, the pain of doing so in front of a crowd is even greater, so there was no other choice. There was a slight chance that my comedy of errors would be seen by a group of high school boys playing Frisbee, but I was willing to risk it. I figured their mockery would be easier to take than that of the little kids on the playground, because I hoped that by this age their mothers had taught them not to gawk at the disabled.

Luckily, the park was empty. I found a secluded spot, set up my hurdle, walked back about 30 feet, and stared at it.

It stared back at me menacingly.

I gulped and reminded myself that I had done this before. Technically, I had successfully jumped over a few of the hurdles. Although, at this point I suspected that I had misread Al's measurements and made my hurdle about three times too high.

I took off running, approached the hurdle, and crashed into it. Not pretty. I was glad the Frisbee players were not there.

I set it back up, walked back to the starting point, and ran towards it again. This time I stopped right before and didn't even attempt to jump. This sucked.

It went on like that for about 30 minutes. I would either knock it over, skid to a stop right before it, or simply run around it. I knew there had to be a better way to do this, and preferably one less emotionally painful. I packed up.

Back at home, I sat down at my computer and googled, "How to Jump Hurdles." I first came upon this video of people at some gym somewhere who can jump really high. It was impressive, but since they were really more showing off than teaching me anything I didn't already know (meaning, that they are better at jumping than I am), I moved on. I next landed at, a website that promised to show me "how to do just about anything," including this video on how to potty train a bunny. I bookmarked that for later and instead clicked on a video advertising basic tips for great hurdling. A long, lanky, and enthusiastic young college student greeted me. She looked like she had jumped her first hurdle about two days after she was born, rather than starting at 32 years old with no sports training whatsoever. I hoped she understood that we might have slightly different definitions of the word, "great."

The first lesson was one of hurdle-jumping fashion, which I wasn't expecting. I kind of just wanted to know how to jump hurdles. It was then that I realized this was just one of a series of videos, which proved to actually be a great resource. As I watched the videos and learned about different warm ups and drills, I realized that this girl was going to be my savior. I wrote down a workout to do each morning, and realized that before I could jump the hurdle, I had to work on the basics. Since it looked a lot easier and even like fun, I was totally cool with that.

Now, with my workout in hand, I am ready to start learning. Hey, I might be 32 years old, clumsy, and a little late to the world of sports training, but I don't think I've yet crashed into my last hurdle.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Missing: One Mojo. Reward: A Mumbled Apology

Have you seen my mojo?

I just had it, but now it's gone. I've retraced my steps, jingled my keys in hopes that it would come scurrying out from under the couch, and even called it from my cell phone to see if it would ring or vibrate or play "Yankee Doodle Dandy," or do something to reveal its hiding place.

Work meetings, volunteer obligations, and other real-life stuff kept me from my lunch workouts most of last week, complicating my search and convincing me that I was wasting valuable training time as I smiled and nodded and acted like a grown-up instead of throwing myself on the floor and pitching a fit about not getting to work out like I really wanted to.

Mid-week, I found some of it next to the treadmill, and a little bit more under my Pilates mat. But I still had this aching, nagging, unfulfilled hole in my psyche that was more than a little pouty when I sent a sideways glance to my lonely gym bag in my office, knowing it would be at least another couple of days before we could head out together and really reconnect. The fact that I couldn't even muster up enough energy to care was proof that my mojo levels were low and falling by the day.

I went through the motions in my morning workouts, dutifully doing my cardio and trying to be enthusiastic about beating my own personal record in barbell squats. But I wasn't into it. I searched the dryer to see if my mojo had gotten statically connected to something. I started to wonder if it had fallen into whatever black hole sucks up random socks.

On Friday I went to the doctor. She listened to my heart, looked in my ears, and tapped on my knees and ankles. She wrote something on her clip board, probably a grocery list or something, and looked up at me. "Classic case of a mojo deficiency," she said with finality. I'm serious. That actually happened. Okay, it didn't. But I was low in Vitamin D, which has been scientifically linked to mojo. Okay, that's not true either.

As I drove home I wondered if maybe instead of looking for my mojo, I should try figuring out why it left. If I fixed that problem, maybe it would show up under my bedroom window with a boom box over its head, silently begging me to take it back, which would be pretty impressive seeing that I live in a one-story house.

Over the weekend, I got a lead that my mojo was off having a pity party, complaining about busting its ass every day and never getting any respect. I peeked my head in and caught the tail end of my mojo venting about about how it gives and gives and gives and what does it get in return? And then I understood: there's been a little too much drill sergeant and not enough camp counselor in my workouts these days. I've been so focused on getting all of my training in that I forgot to smile at myself and enjoy the process.

So this morning I went running in the chilly air and just let the endorphins wash over me. I didn't pay attention to my time, and I didn't check my heart rate. I just ran. In the weight room, I slowed down and really felt my muscles respond to the resistance and push through to become stronger. And as I left and bid everyone a good day, I think I caught a glimpse of my mojo following behind me.

I'm glad we're back together, my mojo and me. I just hope it doesn't hang this over my head for too long; we have work to do.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I Got Nothing

The past couple of weeks have been great for my training. I've been getting a lot of good cardio, changing things up in the gym, and finding time to squeeze in a little more time to work out each day. I know that I have a limited amount of time to prepare for the obstacle course in November, and have been walking that fine line between doing just enough and wearing myself out. And so far I am keeping my New Years resolution to pay more attention to when I need to rest!

So I felt really proud of myself when, on Friday morning, I decided to listen to my body and not do any extra cardio. I've been in the habit of running about 3 miles after my weights in the nice cool weather. But on Friday, after a few steps, I just wasn't into it. I went home and promised myself I would make it up at lunch.

But by lunchtime, a list of things to get done before leaving for a weekend away had grown as long as my arm, and cardio unfortunately was not on it. I didn't worry about it, because I knew I would get some early-morning miles in while staying at my sister's house. I confidently packed my sneakers in my suitcase and looked forward to a new running route.


Over the weekend I traveled home to New Orleans, a place where I am repeatedly reminded of how insanely hard it is to be healthy in a culture based on indulgence, decadence, and, well, the worship of unhealthy food. The whole personality of New Orleans is laissez les bon temps rouler, which is... kind of the opposite of me. But we do our best.

My first priority upon waking up on Saturday was to go for a run. I had mapped out the streets of my sister's neighborhood in my head and couldn't wait for some "me time." But, fate conspired against me. Instead, I watched the finish line of the Crescent City Classic, a 10k race that happens annually through the Garden District and City Park of New Orleans. The morning news was covering the finish of the race, and it was fun to see the New Orleans characters running in costume and having a ball like always. Where else will you read about runners who split into teams and see who can first cross the finish line with an empty keg? Although I did feel bad for the poor girl who happened to be finishing the race just as a local newsman began his coverage, and ended up being front and center on live television when she lost her lunch 3 feet from him.

And it made me want to go running.

Then my brother showed up, looking taller than I remembered and about 30 lbs lighter. "I've been running about 5 miles a day and doing a lot of weights," he told me when interrogated on the absence of his beer belly. Seems the single life is agreeing with him.

I wanted to go running.

The rest of the weekend proceeded pretty much the same way. I stayed busy, but never really took my eyes off of a chance to skip out and help myself to some of the free endorphins that were just laying around all over the street for anyone to take. But Saturday came and went and I never did get my run.

On Sunday, I had plans to get up early and hit the pavement before anyone woke up. But unfortunately, I didn't wake up either. At least, not until I realized that my son was awake and the Easter Bunny had not yet hopped through the living room. So alas, my running shoes stayed in the suitcase wondering why I bothered to bring them on this trip if I wasn't going to let them have any fun.

I arrived back home resigned to a lesson that I know everyone will groan at - NEVER SKIP YOUR CARDIO THINKING YOU WILL MAKE IT UP LATER! :) Yeah, I know I was right to rest when I wasn't feeling up to a workout, and most of me doesn't regret it. But, I have to admit that a little voice in my head keeps reminding me that I should have done it while I had the chance. Oh, well.

This morning was a cardio feast, and I got seconds and thirds. The rest of the week promises more of the same, and I am looking forward to building up a nice little stockpile of treadmill time just in case life interrupts me again.

Which means I better wrap this up and hit the pavement. Have a great week!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Would You Like Some Form With Your Function?

Have you ever heard the comment that the point of fitness is not how much you can lift, but how much you look like you can lift? It's been rolling around in my head for the past couple of weeks because I completely disagree.

Most people go to the gym for aesthetic reasons: the promise of a smaller backside, a larger bicep, or a slimmer waistline are probably more motivation to work out than getting off of your diabetes medication or reducing your risk of a heart attack, which most people never think will happen to them even as they down double-quarter-pounders followed by chocolate-covered bacon (it exists - check it out). Women don't hang bathing suits on their closet doors as reminders to lower their cholesterol, and men don't sneak peeks at their pecs to admire their low blood pressure. Hey, there's no shame in that game; I want to look cute in my bathing suit, too. But while looking good might get you to the gym in the first place, I think its more important to be able to lift heavy than to just look like you can.

For the past couple of weeks I have debated with myself over wanting to train to mostly lose fat and tone up in preparation for a looming beach vacation, or focus more on building strength so I can haul my butt over that wall in November. One requires heavier weight with fewer reps, the other lighter weight with more reps. One requires more protein, the other not as much. One makes me happy when I look in the mirror, and the other makes me happy when I forget to leave my ego at the gym door.

Just deciding which to pick felt like a workout in itself.

So I took the easy way out and decided to choose both. Who says that you have to either look strong or be strong? Who says we can't cook our plain oatmeal eat it, too? While each program has its own merits and fundamentals, they both end up in roughly the same place: a fitter body. Right? Well, kind of depends on how you define, "fit".

Last month at the tri-fitness camp, I met some women who looked strong and were strong, some who looked strong but weren't really, and some who completely shocked me when they performed feats of strength and agility that I would not have guessed they could do. I've been reminding myself that sometimes you do have to choose between being able to and just looking like you can. And begrudgingly, I knew which one I chose.

Sure, I could diet and cardio myself into a bikini by June, but I would rather be able to run 5 miles on the beach, because I stubbornly believe that if I can run 5 miles on the beach, I should damn well be able to get away with wearing a bikini, too.

And yeah, I could do leg extensions to tone my legs and tricep dips to de-flab my arms, but I would rather be able to jump really high and pull myself over a wall with brute strength, because if I can do those things I better not have jello-legs and flabby arms.

I guess what I am saying is that I choose function. And I am counting on God, Mother Nature, Karma, and wishing on shooting stars that form will follow.

And if they let me down, at least I'll be strong enough to kick their butts.