Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Get With the Program

Tonight's the night! I'm going to start a new walk/run program to get back into running and train for my first 5K.

I previously used the "Couch-to-5K Running Plan" from the Cool Running website. It's a good program and I know a lot of people who successfully have completed it, gone on to race in 5K's, and become runners. However, I now have failed to complete the program 3 times, due to various injuries. I'm starting to think that though it's a good program, it's not the right program for me.

When I first started considering a triathlon, I discovered beginnertriathlete.com, a website with tons of helpful information. It has its own "couch to 5K" programs, and I'm going to try the "aggressive" one. I like that it's stretched out over more time than the Cool Running one, 16 weeks as compared to nine. I also like that it gives you a total number of minutes you should spend running or walking, but you are free to break them up however you choose. That flexibility could come in handy on days when I feel weaker or stronger.

This new program starts out with a week of just walking, so I won't actually begin running until next week. Meanwhile I'm just excited to be starting a training program again! This feels like real progress. Here's hoping my leg continues to feel great!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday Shopper - Shampoo and Lotion

I could use some feedback! If I get some good responses, I'll make this a regular feature of my blog. I'm sure I will need lots of advice as time goes by on the various goods and services one needs when participating in sports.

Right now it's my hair and skin that could use some help. They are none too fond of chlorine, so it seems. I used to wash my hair every other day, so it's REALLY confused getting dunked in a pool and then washed 5 days a week. Can anyone recommend a good shampoo and conditioner (or 2-in-1...I love those!) that work especially well for frequent swimmers?

The chlorine has been drying my skin out something fierce. I use lotion every day but I still have some dry patches. I just bought the Target generic of Aveeno lotion and it seems to be helping some, but I'd love to know of other products that might work better.

Cost is always a factor for me, so if you recommend a pricey product, please also let me know of any sales, coupons, or other ways to purchase it at a discount.

Thanks for your help!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Olympic Spirit

I remember the first Olympic Games I watched. It was 1984 - Los Angeles - Mary Lou Retton, Carl Lewis. I was 6 years old, and I was instantly hooked. I've watched every Summer Olympics since then, and most Winter Games too.

My thoughts are drawn to the Olympics today due to the death of Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of the IOC from 1980 to 2001. I owe him my sincerest gratitude. Thanks to his visionary leadership, the Olympic movement grew in size, impact, and financial viability. If the Games hadn't become as big as they did, they probably would not have impacted my life as they have.

Some may argue that commercializing the Games and introducing professional athletes have destroyed the purity of the events, but I disagree. I don't think anything can destroy the purity of the Olympic spirit. No matter what goes on behind the scenes, from corruption scandals to doping issues, the true spirit of the athletes remains the same. It's a spirit of unbridled optimism and unyielding determination, and it never fails to inspire me.

Every two years, I tune in, ready to root for the hometown heroes and chant "U-S-A, U-S-A" until I'm hoarse. And every time, I find inspiration - and education - in unexpected places. I've learned more about the world and its different cultures from the Olympics than I ever learned in school. I've found myself cheering for *gasp* non-Americans when they were the underdogs you couldn't help but love, or when they were clearly the best in the world at their sports and deserved everyone's respect. The Olympic Games give us globalization at its best.

I think most "Olympic junkies" like myself would claim to be inspired by the Olympic spirit in vague, general ways. For me right now, that inspiration has led to real, measurable change in my life. I received my stress fracture diagnosis during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Every other time I've had an exercise program interrupted by an injury, however minor, I've responded by giving up and returning to a sedentary lifestyle. This time, as I sat on the couch feeling sorry for myself, I watched these elite athletes push their bodies to the limits while chasing their loftiest dreams. I paid more attention than usual to the stories of athletes who had overcome serious injuries, not just to compete again, but to compete at the very highest level...and WIN!

Those Olympians passed their unbridled optimism and unyielding determination on to me! Before the Vancouver Games had ended, I'd gotten a pool membership. I would not let this injury slow me down. I would force myself to engage in an activity I didn't enjoy and push myself to improve my skills, and I would not be defeated. And look how far I have come already, thanks to inspiration from a little thing called the Olympic Spirit.

When I was a child, I dreamed of someday winning an Olympic medal. I'm 32 now, and not even an athlete yet, much less an elite one. We all can't be Olympians in reality...but we all can be Olympians in our hearts. Thank you, Juan Antonio Samaranch, for spreading that spirit across the world and into my life. May you rest in peace.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reunited and It Feels So Good

I just spent 22 minutes with an old friend I've been neglecting.

I'm talking about my treadmill, of course! This was the first time I've used it since late January. I visited it a couple of times throughout the past couple of months...sitting there in a corner room in the basement, looking lonely and forgotten. Tonight I made it feel loved and appreciated again! And it made me feel powerful and capable.

Oh, I only walked a nice slow mile, but isn't there a saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step? Well tonight I took my first step...and second...and third...etc. I am well into my journey now. The length of the road does not scare me - I am excited about what lies ahead!

It's worth noting that I did not feel any pain in my leg. I'm not surprised, however. I expect that if the pain is going to return, it won't happen until I'm actually running again. I plan to attempt my first little run two weeks from tonight, so I should remain pain-free AT LEAST until then.

For now, I will try to walk every night, in addition to my weekday morning swims. And I won't take a single moment of any of this for granted. Experiencing an injury that limited my mobility for a while has reminded me to appreciate what a gift it is just to be able to walk on two strong legs. I am so blessed!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Itchin' to Run!!!

Last week I said I was in no hurry to resume running. I was happy to take my time and not rush things, giving my leg as much time as possible to get stronger.

Patience never has been my strong suit. My resolve is already weakening. I want to RUN!!!

Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time playing outdoors with the kids, running around and just being very active. It felt so amazing...my leg felt perfectly normal and overall I felt pretty fit!

Then yesterday I ran the entire length of Costco and back, after we got to the checkout and realized we'd forgotten the waffles! Trust me, in our house hell hath no fury like a little boy denied his waffle. It's the breakfast of choice for all three of them nearly every.single.day. So a jog back to the frozen food coolers was necessary to avert a crisis! I think I enjoyed it way more than anyone should enjoy running through a crowded warehouse store. :)

I think the universe has been conspiring against me - or maybe it's actually in my favor! Running has been a topic all over the place lately. A good friend ran a really fun 10K yesterday that made me wish I were ready for races. Another good friend just registered for this October's Marine Corps Marathon, and suggested that I sign up for the 10K that is held the same day. I have no idea whether I could be ready by then, but I want to be! And still another friend completed her second Boston Marathon today. Consider me inspired and motivated. I MUST start running again ASAP.

Before I start another running program, I want to do some walking first. I think I'm going to hop on the treadmill tomorrow and just see what happens. I would walk outside, as the weather is supposed to be lovely this week, but since I'm going to keep swimming in the mornings, I think my only available time to walk will be at night after the kids are in bed. I'm not a big fan of walking or running in the dark, so treadmill it is!

I'm both excited and nervous at the thought of getting on the treadmill again. The last time I used it, I was in excrutiating pain. I'm praying for better results this time around!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fabulous Friday!

After a good, consistent week of swimming, this morning I woke up with a powerful drive to push myself harder. And boy did I! For the first time, I swam the front crawl for more laps than I swam the backstroke. And I more than doubled the total number of front crawl laps, so I did 13 laps with my face in the water! Sweet triumph!

I'm still a long way from truly mastering the proper breathing technique, but I can feel myself improving every day. My comfort level just keeps increasing, and I grow more relaxed and confident with each lap. The next goal I'd like to reach in the water would be swimming a complete 30-40 minutes doing only front crawl. I'll figure out my next goal once I can accomplish that.

I didn't manage to do any yoga or other strengthening exercises for my leg this week, so I'm still not ready to start running again. I hope to start the yoga this coming week, and maybe some walking workouts the week after that. On Wednesday I'm supposed to see my orthopedist for a follow-up appointment, but I haven't had any pain since I stopped using the boot. I'm going to cancel that appointment and save the co-pay in case I need to go back if the pain returns when I resume running.

In other exciting news, I lost 2 lbs in the past week and I'm now just 4 lbs away from my next mini weight loss goal. It's been a wonderful week and I'm incredibly thankful!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

To Dream the Improbable Dream

I wouldn't have called a triathlon "impossible," but when a friend suggested it after I first took up swimming, I laughed so hard I could barely breathe. "You don't understand," I told her, "I can't even put my face in the water when I swim - THAT'S how bad I am at it!"

That was just 5 weeks ago. At the time, I was technically still obese, according to my BMI. Since then I have lost 5 lbs, gone down a clothing size, and dropped my BMI into the merely "overweight" range. This morning I swam 6 full laps with my face in the water. This is an elementary skill for even the youngest kids learning to swim. For me, it was an enormous accomplishment!

This is a new leg of an ongoing journey. My obesity came about gradually over the course of several years. During times of stress, financial worries and grief, I turned to emotional eating and inactivity in order to cope. Having three babies within 4 years only compounded my health issues.

Many times I have started to exercise regularly, with varying degrees of success, and each time I've been derailed by a new stressful event in my life or some minor injury. Most recently, the disruptive injury was a little more serious. I started running in November with the goal of running my first 5k in the spring. Then I stopped running in late January due to intense pain in my left leg. The pain refused to go away, so I saw a doctor and was diagnosed with a stress fracture. I was looking at 4 or more weeks in a walking cast boot, and maybe even more time beyond that before I could run again.

Desperate not to lose the momentum I'd been building toward getting in shape, I reluctantly purchased a membership at a local pool. The first few days were challenging, to say the least. I felt self-conscious, not because I was overweight but because I was such a terrible swimmer. I did take swimming lessons as a kid, and I enjoyed being in the water...but when it came to correctly executing the strokes? Forget it! Somehow I had developed a strong mental block between myself and proper breathing techniques. I've never been able to dive, and I developed a nasty little habit of holding my nose with my fingers anytime my head went under the water.

At first I was looking at swimming as temporary suffering that I had to endure just until I could run again. I swallowed my pride and flailed awkwardly from one end of the pool to the other for 30 minutes every morning. Then I discovered that I could do the backstroke and keep my face out of the water, all the while looking much less awkward. Before long, I started getting faster and stronger and started feeling more confident in the water. Much to my surprise, I found that I was beginning to enjoy swimming!!! Then after I got some goggles, I suddenly became brave enough to try putting my face in the water. It was difficult at first, but I've been practicing it for a couple weeks now...and the impossible - or at least highly improbable - doesn't seem quite so daunting anymore.

I've been completely outside of my comfort zone, but I pushed myself to overcome a great deal of self-consciousness and fear. Meeting success in the pool has given me a confidence I haven't felt in many years. Right now ANYTHING feels possible - even a triathlon - and that is why I've started this blog. I'm dreaming big now, and I want to record my progress and share it with anyone who is interested.

I have a very long road ahead, and my initial focus is recovering from my injury and continuing to learn how to swim properly. I've been out of my boot for a week but don't plan to attempt running again just yet. First I'm going to try some yoga to strengthen my leg muscles and help prevent re-injury. I also want to lose about 5 more pounds before I start running again, because the less I weigh, the less strain there will be on all my bones and muscles.

If you'd like to follow along on my journey, thanks! I hope we all get something valuable out of the experience!