Lightning-fast Lani?

Just got back from a great after-work run in lovely cool temperatures. I used the RunKeeper app again and it told me I was averaging…10:30-minute miles?! And that was including my walk breaks?! I find it incredibly hard to believe that I’m running an entire minute faster during my short runs than my training runs, and I can only think of three explanations: 1. maybe I’m really feeling zippy (yes, I did try pushing it today, but I didn’t FEEL like I was working all that hard!), 2. maybe my music really makes a difference (it definitely feels easier to run with a beat, which I don’t have during my group runs), or 3. the app is WAY off. As soon as I got home I tried to map out the distances that the app recorded as mile markers, and crazy enough it LOOKS like everything matches up (mile 1 on the app also looked like the same distance on Google maps), so I guess it’s possible I just had a supremely great run tonight?!

I mean really – it doesn’t matter! A good run is a good run and whether it was 10:30 or 11:30 minute miles, all I had to do was get 4 in and that’s what I did. And it’s still so early in the season. I do want to use my short distances to work on speed, so I guess I can forego the numbers and rely on how I feel, and I did feel like I was pushing myself well – not to the point where I was sprinting or anything, but where I could maintain a faster pace for a long enough duration of time. A tempo run.

Today I looked down at my computer screen and realized my neck didn’t hurt one bit – as the kids might write, #grateful! 🙂 Now my back is still tight from one of the exercises in my HIIT class on Sunday, but that’s a whole other thing! Workout soreness I crave; injury I try to avoid!

And that’s about it with me. Yesterday was my rest day, today I did the 4 miles, tomorrow and Thursday I’ll do 3, and Thursday I’ll also take my strength training class. I’m a little nervous about my 9-mile group run on Saturday but I think the more effort I put into my mid-week runs, the stronger and more confident I’ll feel going into the long ones. Hope everyone has a lovely evening!

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Beautiful Sunday!

I’m really not one to complain about weather – like my dad, I follow the forecast pretty meticulously and plan my outfits accordingly – but we’ve had a LOT of rainy days here lately. Thankfully most haven’t affected my commute or any plans, but when all you see on the 10-day forecast are little cloud emblems, it kinda takes a toll! But yesterday and today have been positively GORGEOUS. Sunny, lightly breezy, kinda bridging that gap between cool and warm…oh just picture perfect. It’s so lovely to see sunshine!

I started the day with my favorite high-intensity interval training (HITT) class. This is one that I haven’t been able to attend in recent weeks with my neck strain, so I was thrilled to be able to come back. I love this class because it’s a blend of cardio and strength and never gets boring. The instructor picks a bunch of exercises and you do each one for 8 rounds, with 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. If you’re lucky, the first few rounds will go by somewhat quickly, but by round 4 or 5 you’re really feeling it. Today we started with some really intense exercises – ones incorporating lots of jumps and squats and weights and the step – and we did a set involving burpees, which was one of those exercises I was so worried about doing as I’m recovering from my little setback. But everything went really well and I was more or less able to get back into the weights I typically use (rather than going lighter). I hope I’m good and sore tomorrow!

When I got back I finished up my cooking for the week. I typically meal plan on Friday afternoons or on Saturdays and figure out what lunches and dinners will complement each other – aiming for a good blend of proteins and fats, with fewer carbs. This week I’ll be feasting on baked shrimp with feta cheese and tomatoes with some rice for dinner, and a chicken/blueberry/bulgur salad for my lunches (well…it’s supposed to be pasta but despite it being on my grocery list I forgot to purchase it, so my bag of bulgur came to the rescue!). What I like about this combo is that I get protein from two different sources (chicken is great but if I have it for both lunch and dinner I quickly tire of it) and it was easy to tweak both recipes to cutback on the rice and bulgur portions. Plus they were both super easy to make – I cook somewhat often but I have zero flair for it, so the easier the recipe, the better!

Tomorrow should be a rest day for me but if I feel antsy I might try to get a walk in or something, esp if it’s beautiful again like it is today. I’m still a little concerned over how challenging my dopey 5-mile run was yesterday, so for my runs this week I’ll focus on keeping up my speed. I don’t want to have to default to the 12-minute mile group but it’s reassuring to know it’s there if I need it.

That’s all I’ve got! Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend. 🙂

Respect the 5!

Finally writing after a long and fabulous day!

This morning was the “shortest long run” of my training cycle – just 5 miles. We’ll continue to build mileage and decrease, but this is the shortest number of miles I’ll run on a Saturday until…after the marathon, I guess! It’s funny because all day yesterday I kept laughing off the 5 – I nearly did 5 on my regular Tuesday run, for pete’s sake – but every time I got overconfident I kept thinking that it was going to be harder than I’d planned. I didn’t even sleep well last night because I kept thinking about it – so strange, right!? Last weekend I did 7 and felt awesome; you’d think I’d be fine with 5! And apparently I wasn’t the only one to feel that way – when I met up with my group it was a little chilly and really breezy, but we all kept saying “eh, it’s only 5” – like, who cares if conditions aren’t perfect, we won’t be out there long!

And of course it was the LONGEST 5 MILES EVER! Oh my lord! I just kept wondering when it was going to end! I guess part of the problem was that we ran a twisty/turny course to evade some strong winds, so it’s not like it was a simple out and back that I could keep track of. And the pace just felt a little faster than what I’m comfortable with, which was not a good feeling. Before we headed out, one of the women in my group was talking about defaulting to the 12-minute pace group; she said she was able to keep up with our 11:30 group but it was a struggle, and one of the other women said something like “well your long runs should be comfortable, because you’ll be running faster the day of the marathon – your race pace will be faster.” And for whatever reason that stuck in my head and I kept thinking that I should be in the slower group too. But there are two reasons I don’t want to default: one is that I feel like if I work hard enough, I should be fine with 11:30; it’s more a pride thing than anything. And the other is that the other group is running at a 4:2 ratio, so four mins running and two walking – I just did my 1/2 marathon at a 6:1 and my current marathon group goes at a 5:1; I feel like going all the way down to a 4:2 would be a step in the wrong direction.

Next week is 9 miles and I think I’ll gain some more clarity. For one thing, my current pace leader is going to offer a run/walk at 11-minute miles, which is too fast for me – I’ll miss running with her (I really liked her low-key personality), but I figure if she leads a faster group and a few of my current pace-mates default to the slower group, the ones sticking around will make a concerted effort to stay exactly at the 11:30 pace (right now we frequently run just a bit faster than needed; I think slowing down just a tiny bit will help me a lot). My new pace leader will be a woman who joined us for the first time today (she had prior commitments the past two weekends) – she has a strong personality but that might be exactly what I need to keep up.

So I guess either way I’m in a good spot – I can push myself to stay where I’m at or I can duck down to the slower level. That’s what the practice runs are all about, right? Figuring out the details so that once the real thing rolls around you’ve experimented plenty and you know what works for you.

Anyway, the rest of my day was just lovely – the weather was gorgeous and I took a little road trip to some outlets in Indiana. Not just any outlets though – outlets that are equidistant between Chicago and Kalamazoo, Michigan, where one of my absolute dearest friends lives with her husband and two kids. We meet up at these outlets every now and then for lunch and shopping, and today was just as great a visit as usual! Afterwards I went grocery shopping and cooked this yummy shrimp/tomato/feta situation for dinner and now I am appropriately exhausted after a long but fantastic day!

Rest Day, Shmest Day

Per my suspicions, my neck did feel stiff when I woke up this morning and my legs were definitely sore, but it was totally worth it to be back to my usual gym routine yesterday. And by mid-morning or so my neck was definitely better and my legs…well my legs were still tired but that’s okay! I felt so good that I went back to my favorite gym class tonight, WERQ. It’s a dance class similar to Zumba, but with (my opinion) better music and better choreography. And a fabulous instructor! I was so happy to be able to go!

I know technically rest days are supposed to be breaks from workouts, but my thought process was thus: I missed two cross-training sessions with my neck thing, so I had this coming, and tomorrow I’m just running 5 miles with my group – totally doable. And if anything the dancing helped flush my legs out from all the squatting and weights yesterday. I know once my Saturday mileage really kicks in I won’t be able to take this class, so I wanted to go while I still had the energy! And I’m so glad I did.

And on a separate note entirely, what a day – I woke up to news of the 3 major terrorist attacks and immediately wrote a bulletin once I got to work (in my non-fitness life I am a security analyst), and worried about the implications of what is assumed to be ISIL-inspired activity. But then I read the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage – sorry, just “marriage” now! – and was so happy to see yet another progressive decision handed down by this court. I feel like between today’s vote and upholding the Affordable Care Act and ruling in favor of preventing housing discrimination, the court is trying to make up for the Bush v Gore disaster. 🙂 Then I read a million headlines about Obama’s powerful eulogy for Clementa Pickney and once again felt inspired by our President. Then, to round out the day’s news, I read about how one of the NY prisoner escapees was shot and killed -okay, not exactly how I would have liked that story to end (a return to prison would have been fine with me), but it’s a victory for law enforcement and hopefully they’ll find the other guy by the end of the weekend. Anyway, crazy day of news – lots to worry about, yes, but also some big headlines to truly celebrate!

Feeling Victorious!

…and just like that, I conquered my neck/shoulder situation. Precisely two weeks after the initial injury.

So to backtrack…last night when I was going to bed, I decided to be ambitious this morning and run my requisite 3 miles before attempting to re-join my strength-training class. So I set my alarm for 4:45, but by “set,” I mean I played with the numbers but never actually activated the thing…but by the grace of the fitness gods somehow sprang out of bed at 5:40 – just enough time to get dressed and get to my class. My run would have to wait.

I was a little nervous to get back into the swing of things, and especially to do a few specific exercises – burpees, planks, and sit-ups. Sit-ups were obvious – that’s how I hurt myself to begin with – and the other two I was nervous about putting pressure on my neck and shoulders. But we did all three today and I barely felt any pain – I mean, I felt pressure I guess, but not pain, and it was completely manageable. I felt so incredibly relieved. And a little weak, to be honest – it’s amazing what 2 weeks off from weights will do to you – I could tell there were exercises we were doing today that I could have heavier weights on before getting sidetracked. But whatever – I’ll take it!

Tonight I wrapped up my weeklong runs with 3 miles outside, no stopping. And I really pushed my speed – it felt simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. While I genuinely love to push myself (within reason), I do notice that my stomach doesn’t react so well when I work on speed, so that’ll be a natural deterrent from really trying to go nuts – which is probably a good thing since speed isn’t my thing to begin with!

I feel weird bringing this up because today was such a positive day fitness-wise, but it’s on my mind so I’ll touch upon it – I’ve been disappointed in my eating these past few weeks. I know I wrote an earlier post referencing my struggles with food, and they really do ebb and flow. Today I felt especially big when I left for my evening run – I felt like my thighs were going to bust out of my capris, and usually my legs aren’t even my biggest problem area! I know all runners fear being last at an event – obviously I do too, but my other fear is being the biggest. So far it hasn’t happened but it could – I am the biggest in my training group, for example – not in the whole group of runners that show up every Saturday, but in my little 5:1 ratio group. And I know I’m strong-ish for the most part and I know I’m in good enough shape and all that, but still – it takes a toll. Thankfully today was a good day food-wise and hopefully this weekend will be reasonable as well – I have plans but they’re nothing crazy – I just need a handful of good days to get back on track. I hope.

Anyway that’s all from me! I’m so curious to see how I feel tomorrow – whether my neck will act up because I challenged it today (fine if it does; I’d rather pay a small price tomorrow than miss another class), whether my legs want to die from so many weighted squats and lunges or if my evening run helped kind of flush everything out – we’ll see! Off to eat dinner and catch up on Jon Stewart and get some sleep!

All Good Stuff

Just got back from Raleigh in time for a quick blog post before bed! I had such a wonderful trip – the conference itself (my actual reason for going) was fine, but being able to catch up with my college roommate was just marvelous. It’s always such a special occasion to see her! And we didn’t waste a minute – we were gabbing as soon as we sat down to eat. It’s always like this with us – picking up precisely where we left off! Thanks again, C, for meeting up with me – next time we’ll do it in Italy! 🙂

This morning I was able to sneak in a quick workout before the conference – although I did have to improvise. In my experience, hotel fitness centers are hit or miss – usually miss! Sometimes they’re bigger and/or better maintained than you expect, and sometimes they’re exactly as you fear, which was the case today: a super stuffy room with one treadmill, one elliptical, and one of those all-in-one strength machines, so not even a few hand weights lying around. When I got there a guy was already on the treadmill so I just accepted that today’s workout might be subpar…but at least I was doing it. I ellipticalled away for 10 minutes or so and got super lucky -the guy hopped off the treadmill and left. By this point I didn’t have a whole lot of time to spare (I had to do 3 miles and had allocated precisely the amount of time it would take me before I had to get back to my room and shower and change) so I only took two quick walking breaks and kept the pace pretty quick (for me). Oh but the hilarious thing was that neither the elliptical nor the treadmill had a setting to track DISTANCE (which to me is pretty basic!), so time-wise I should have gotten my 3 miles done but really who knows! Whatever – sometimes you have to suspend your details-obsessed nature and just go with the flow. And flow I did.

My best news – I was completely off painkillers yesterday and today and I did okay! The flights weren’t great for me (I kept dropping my head to sleep and then remembering to pull back up) and my neck was stiff both mornings, but once I got into the swing of things it really was okay. So – big plan for tomorrow – I shall make my triumphant return to my strength-training class. Fingers crossed it actually happens!!

Beautiful Run!

I am working from home this morning (flying to Raleigh this afternoon for work), so I was able to “sleep in” until 7 and still run before settling in to work from my couch this morning. Oh but I do love mornings like this! It’s just gorgeous here today – sunny and warm but not humid, perfect for an outdoor run. Today I played around with the RunKeeper app – I really liked the little voice that chimed in every 5 minutes to let me know my distance and pace. I maintained my normal 6:1 run/walk ratio instead of the 5:1 that I’m using with my group run for training. I think it’ll be good to practice at a slightly higher level; hopefully that’ll mean that my group training runs are slightly easier. Anyway, I felt GREAT and ended up running over 4.5 miles.

My neck was a little stiff when I woke up but it feels okay now – not perfect but manageable – I’m going to try to stay away from any painkillers today and see how I do. I’ll bring both my prescription stuff and regular Advil on my work trip just in case, but I’m really hoping I can just move on! If I feel this good on Thursday morning I’ll take my normal strength-training class…but I feel like a broken record when I say that so let’s just see how things go!

Today I fly to Raleigh and I will speak at a conference tomorrow. But the real excitement is tonight – I will have dinner with my college roommate! C and I actually went to nursery school together, then reconnected in high school, and when I realized we were going to the same college I asked if she would live with me. I figured we’d complement each other well and it worked out perfectly – not only did we live together all four years, we even studied abroad in Florence together. We’ve been able to visit every few years or so –  the most recent time was the fall of 2013, so a nice long dinner chat tonight is definitely in order!

Back to work – happy Tuesday, y’all!

Two Days Off…and a Confession

Good evening from a stormy Chicago!

Good news/bad news – bad news is that I haven’t been able to take the interval class at my gym that would be a perfect cross-training session for training, because both yesterday and this morning my neck just hurt too much to go. Good news though, I think, is that my neck felt better today than it has since this whole thing started, so hopefully I’ll be back in action very soon! I am just very grateful that I haven’t missed any runs – and technically I HAVE done my cross-training workouts, with the pool class on Saturday and a ton of extra walking – but I know I need to get in some strength training sessions, with weights.

I am looking forward to the rest of my workouts this week; I’m supposed to do 3 miles tomorrow, 4 on Wednesday, and 3 on Thurs. But because I have a quick work trip this week, I’m going to do my 4 tomorrow, before my flight, then hopefully squeeze in 3 at the hotel fitness center on Wednesday morning and I’ll wrap up my final three on Thursday morning or after work – my choice. 🙂

So now the confession part of my entry. It’s probably best that I didn’t work out today because I lost it yesterday with food. Maybe that sounds weird, but I’m so much more careful with what I eat when I don’t work out, and sometimes it actually helps me relax. Sunday morning I was just so frustrated that I couldn’t go to the gym – I didn’t in a little activity by doing some deep cleaning, but obviously it’s not the same. And I could have gone for a walk – it was a gorgeous day – but I couldn’t/didn’t motivate myself to do so. I don’t know why. I had my regular breakfast (almost always I have a 1/2 cup of oats with some berries, a 1/2 tbsp of walnuts, and a 1/4 tsp of sugar) and it was yummy as usual, but for whatever reason I just kept going back into the kitchen and eating…pretty much anything I could. The one thing that went right was that I stopped eating around lunchtime and distracted myself throughout the afternoon (with a nap, mani/pedi, and a call to my dad) so that the next time I ate was at dinnertime. But the damage was done for sure.  Unfortunately I do have these days from time to time…I try to look back and figure out what exactly went wrong…sometimes there’s a pattern/trend and sometimes it’s random. I know for sure that yesterday I was just frustrated at not being able to work out…clearly I need a better coping mechanism for when my plans fall through!

Along those lines, I’ve been thinking about asking for a session with the nutritionist at my gym. I have struggled with my weight my whole life and have definitely seen all manner of experts before, but this time I’d go specifically with an eye to appropriately eating to fuel the marathon training. I read running blogs ad nausuem, and the one thing I want to be super cognizant of is not overeating and gaining weight through this process – that would be so heartbreaking! Maybe if I do see a nutritionist and get a plan, I’ll be more confident in my approach. On the other hand, I’ve gone through times when I’m excessively strict with my dieting and I’ve just been obsessive with numbers, not to mention the most pleasant person to be around. While I’d love for a nutritionist to design a plan for me, I’m not sure I’m ready to go back to paying so much attention to what I consume. I’ve lost some weight recently (not enough though!) doing my own thing – mainly cutting back on carbs (but not cutting out) – so I know what I need to do for the most part – I just need to do it.

Anyway, this was a bit of a rambling post so I’ll leave it there. Excited for my run tomorrow and especially my work trip! More on that tomorrow!

Sensational Saturday!

Happy weekend, friends!

Yesterday was a rest day so no workout to write about – I also took a rest from my prescription pills and just took regular Advil. I can’t say it was my best idea but I wanted to give it a shot – I tried! Back on the prescription stuff today. But my rest day was really nice – it was cool and sunny here and my coworker and I escaped the office twice, once to give a presentation in office space a few blocks from ours, and once again to find a McDonald’s vanilla cone (for me!) – the first one we hit up didn’t have any ice cream (and the guy didn’t even apologize; it was like I was the crazy one for coming to a McDonald’s solely for ice cream) but the second one totally delivered.

Then last night I went to see Mumford and Sons; they played at one of the beachfront areas right near my house. It was such a pleasure to just walk to and from the show! So even though I was technically off exercise, I still got plenty of walking in. Standing for 3 hrs watching the performance might not have been the best thing for my neck, but still worth the sacrifice!

Today was my 7-mile group run and it was GREAT. I was a little nervous before starting (will that always happen!?) but as soon as we got going I felt great and was totally on my game. My group was much better organized than last week’s and we totally maintained the 11:30 pace. I know we’re running faster than I typically do because we are walking a LOT SLOWER but still averaging the right speed. We still stop for every.single.water.break, but that’s something I’ll have to get used to. Right now I just have water in my little belt and I barely needed it today since it was still on the cool side and was a shorter distance, but I know once we start running longer and it’s more humid I’ll run out of my own supply and I’ll be grateful for the breaks. Plus – this is what you get with group runs, you know? You lost your autonomy as a runner, for better or for worse – right now I’m feeling great and I’m a little exasperated with the stops, but there will come a time, probably soon, when I’ll be dragging and those will serve as a little pick-me-up. And right now I feel like I could go faster and beyond the team leaders, but soon I’ll need them to encourage me to keep up speed. So – all good.

Afterwards I went back to bed for a bit (my favorite post-run ritual: the nap) and then tried out my very first hydro-fit class at my gym. I thought it would be a good foray back into resistance training and it would be a nice complement to running – I was right! The workout was great – not exactly heart-pounding, but if I weren’t already in a pool I would have been sweating for sure. I really felt it in my arms and abs, which I loved – my legs get plenty of exercise but my upper body gets much less (esp during this neck/shoulder sprain). It’s funny how water aerobics appeals to little old ladies (I generalize…but it’s true!) but it’s actually a really great workout – my observation is that it’s pretty much a free for all, so if you can follow along with the instructor, you’ll get what you came for, but if you want to take it easy…no one’s forcing you to do otherwise. 🙂  The best thing about this class is that it’s later in the mornings, so for the next several weeks while my running distances are on the lower end, I’ll be able to take this class afterwards. Yay!

I rounded out the day with a walk to my favorite neighborhood with my neighbor friend and her dog. We do this often on the weekends -her dog gets a nice walk and we get to stroll at a leisurely pace but still get in about a 3-mile or so loop. We were both proud of ourselves for executing financial restraint at Athleta – no small feat!

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get back to my interval class, but I’m not going to push it – I’ll see how I feel when I wake up. And now I can settle in for a quiet night at home – perfect for tonight. Enjoy your Saturday!

Last Short Run of the Week!

Good evening! This morning I made a good decision – I think – instead of going to my strength training class, I opted for a quick training run on the treadmill. My neck/shoulder still hurts a bit, and the idea of using weights, especially for upper body exercises, just made me nervous. So instead I hopped on the treadmill to get my 3 miles in. Unlike the past two days, this time I used the run/walk ratio that I’ll be using during the marathon, 5 mins running and 1 min walking. I think I figured out the right numbers to use on the treadmill so that my miles average 11:30, and the speed felt completely do-able and sustainable. Even better, I usually find the treadmill more challenging than running outside (I think it’s the sheer lack of scenery), so hopefully that means that my long runs will be equally manageable.

The only thing that gives me pause is that my neck/shoulder was feeling better this morning…and not so great as the day went on, especially later in the afternoon. But since I already got my run in I’ll be taking it easy tonight, and tomorrow’s a rest day anyway, so hopefully after a day and a half of taking it easy I’ll be ready for my long run on Saturday. It’s only 7 miles so it shouldn’t be all that taxing anyway. And there’s a pool class at my gym that I’ve never done but I think could be a good foray back into resistance work; it’s also on Saturday morning but I think I should have time to get there after my run – if I do, I think that’ll help make me feel a little stronger.

Crazy day in downtown Chicago with the Blackhawks parade – happy to be home and totally going to bed early!