Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Warm Ups, Cool Downs, and Stretches

Welcome to a new feature of my blog! I will do this any time I have a question to ask, just like my Saturday Shopper feature. My Saturday questions will continue to focus specifically on fitness-related products, while my Tuesday questions will be more about techniques, methods, etc. I hope you will give me some good feedback!

My first question is what do you do to warm up before swimming or running? What do you do to cool down after either of those? And how much do you incorporate stretching into warming up, cooling down, or other parts of your workouts?

I don't really warm up before I swim. I get into the pool, do one slow lap with a kick board, do a couple of short stretches in the water, and then jump right into swimming laps. Every so often I do a little stretching between laps. When I'm done swimming, I do a couple more short stretches in the water, and then go soak in the hot tub for ten minutes.

When I run, I start with a few short stretches, and then I walk for five minutes before running. I do not stop during the run to stretch. When I'm done, I walk at least another five minutes, sometimes longer, to cool down, and then finish up with some longer, deeper stretches.

I feel like I'm probably not stretching quite as much as I should be, but I just don't have the patience for it! Before I work out, I'm anxious to get started, and then when I'm done I'm just DONE. But I also sometimes wonder if inadequate stretching has been a factor in my past injuries.

So please tell me what you do, and also whether your routine has changed over time and if so, why. I can't wait to hear your tips!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Quarter for My Thoughts

A penny for my thoughts just won't do...it's inflation, people! Just kidding - the quarter actually refers to my progress in my walk/run program. I officially have completed 25% of it! So that's 4 weeks down and 12 to go!

I'm definitely still a long way from running the 5K distance though. I have run a total of 6 minutes in a session, and tomorrow night I will increase that to 9 minutes (not consecutive). My progress is slow, as I knew it would be, but it is steady and mostly pain-free so far. I do have occasional aches in my left leg, near where my injury was, but nothing severe or sustained so I still think I'm in the clear for now. I do worry about it occasionally though. I'm not sure how long you have to be healthy before you can shake off the worry about re-injury.

Meanwhile in the pool, I have continued to build up my endurance by decreasing the amount of time that I pause between laps. The next big challenge I want to tackle is learning how to do flip turns. Since I have issues with getting water up my nose, this is going to be as slow a process as anything else. I've been practicing blowing air out my nose underwater and have attempted a few feeble flips (in place, not while swimming laps). I'll let you know how things go from here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

No Excuses!!

In the past two weeks, I have missed 5 workouts. Since I'm shooting for 11 workouts per week right now, that number isn't horrible, but it's not great either. In the three weeks prior, I didn't skip a single workout, for any reason.

This change has led me to ponder excuses. I am the Queen of Excuses. I don't say this with pride...just honest self-awareness. It's really very easy for me to come up with an excuse to do or not do whatever I want.

When I look back over the workouts I've missed recently, at least one excuse was perfectly legitimate. I forgot to set my alarm so I overslept and literally did not have time to go to the pool in the morning. Once the moment of forgetfulness had happened, there was not much I could do to rectify the situation when I had somewhere to be.

One of my excuses was completely lame. My bathing suit was really worn out (and possibly see-through in the back) and I skipped a swim until I could buy a new one. I really should have gone to the pool that morning anyway, and I'm disappointed in myself for wimping out.

The other three missed workouts fall into a gray area...not feeling well. Twice it was a cough/cold and the other time was a stomachache. If I were not the Queen of Excuses, I would trust my own judgement and not worry about my choices here. But knowing myself, I'm afraid of slipping into old habits of constantly making excuses to be lazy. I haven't lost interest in my goals, but as I settle into a routine and my progress remains slow, it's hard to keep that passionate, driven feeling every single day.

So I'm trying to figure out how to handle the excuses. Which ones are legitimate, and which ones are not? Where do I draw the line? How do I recognize a lame excuse in time to stop myself from making it? When it comes to not feeling well, how sick is sick enough not to work out? No one can really answer these questions for me...I have to figure it out for myself. At the same time, I would love to hear feedback from anyone who has also struggled with excuses! I'll post an update myself if I develop any new insights. Maybe I can go from being the Queen of Excuses to being the Queen of Self-Discipline instead! Hey - anything is possible, right? :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Paying it Forward

Yesterday we registered our two older boys for their first swimming lessons. They're very excited to go to the pool I go to every day, although the oldest likes to declare that he already knows how to swim. Yeah, splashing around in the bathtub doesn't exactly count, buddy!

In general, I think it's important for kids to learn how to swim because it can be a real safety issue if they are ever around a body of water. On a personal level, I'm thrilled for my own kids to learn to swim because I want them to grow up in an active, healthy lifestyle.

Body image issues are not exactly the same for boys as for girls, but I want to teach and emphasize health in our home nonetheless. My kids do not hear us talk about ourselves or anyone else as "fat," but instead we talk about what a healthy body looks and feels like. We talk about nutritious foods, and the importance of drinking water.

Most of all, we try our best to model good behaviors, because we know they are learning more from what we do than from what we say. How can we expect them to eat their vegetables if we don't? How can we tell them to go outside and run around if we are sitting on our behinds watching TV all day long? I doubt they would be as excited about their upcoming swimming lessons if they didn't see me come home from the pool every morning. They love watching me run on the treadmill, and I can only imagine how much fun they will have cheering me on in races someday!

Our lifestyle is definitely not 100% healthy, but I feel good about the effort we're making. I also feel confident that the lessons already are sinking into their sponge-like brains. I hope someday we will be the type of family that spends its weekends hiking, playing softball in the park, or riding bikes together, even if we also sometimes watch movies and go out for ice cream too. A healthy balance is what I'm striving for, and I hope the work I'm doing right now to get myself in shape will help significantly.

So I'm giving my kids the gift of fitness...this summer, swimming lessons...what will be the payoff? Is it too much to start hoping for the 2024 Olympics? :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Owning My Number

A lot of women won't tell a soul what they weigh - not even their best friends or husbands. I have never been one of those women.

I am announcing with pride that this morning I weighed in at 199 lbs. This is the first time I've been under 200 in two years! To me, that is cause for celebration, not shame.

In fact, I don't see any sense in being ashamed of your weight at all. It's just a number, not a judgement of your worth as a human being.

Your weight is not necessarily even an indicator of your health! I remember reading a magazine article years ago about what 150 lbs looked like on 6 or 7 different women. They were all different shapes and sizes and levels of fitness, and no one could have guessed just looking at them that they all weighed the same thing. There are so many other factors that determine your health...your weight is just one piece of the puzzle.

I feel like our society places too much importance on "weight" and not enough on "fitness," and this causes a lot of people to obsess over the former while completely missing the boat on the latter. I wish we could get rid of all the social stigmas attached to weight, and take a more commonsense, practical approach to health and fitness. That's what I'm trying to do in my own life, and I believe I'm succeeding.

Yes, I am working hard to lose weight...but as an overall effort to get in shape, not because the number on the scale has any power over me at all. I'm so unashamed of my weight that I'll tell you all about. My highest weight was about 255 lbs, the day my oldest son was born. Yes, this was a 9-months-pregnant weight, but it was also a HIGH weight. I gained somewhere between 40 and 50 lbs during that pregnancy. My highest recorded non-pregnant weight was 222, after my second son was born. I then started exercising and eating right, and got down to 196 before my last pregnancy. After my third son was born, my weight topped off at 218, so now I have lost a total of 19 lbs in this latest quest for fitness.

In order to achieve a healthy BMI, I need to get down to 170 lbs. I'd love to go even further, to around 150 or 160, but it won't crush me if I don't. Once my weight is within the "healthy" range, I will be focusing much more on cardiovascular fitness, endurance, strength, flexibility, and of course other important factors like my cholesterol level, which I've never had tested.

Before anyone misinterprets what I'm saying, I'd like to clarify that I don't think weight is unimportant or should be ignored. It definitely matters! It IS an important thing...it's just not the ONLY thing! And that's precisely why I think it's healthy to face the number, not hide from it. If you don't own your number, it just might own you.

I'm owning all of my 199 lbs, and the 19 I've burned off already. I gained them. And I'm losing them - as many as I need to in order to be healthy.

If you're reading this and you don't have the courage to own your number, there is no shame in that either. No one can force you out of your comfort zone, and you're certainly not doomed to a life of obesity just because you don't care to make your weight public. I believe owning your number can be liberating and empowering, but in the end it's still not as important as just trying to be as healthy as you can, however you go about it. Whether you own your number or not, at some point you do have to own your health!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Not What I Expected

Why does this feel so anticlimactic?

I've been waiting for this day for months. I imagined tears of joy as I stepped off the treadmill, free of pain. I mentally drafted Facebook status updates announcing my triumphant return to running. It was supposed to be such a sweet moment!

But last night, when I logged on after my run/walk workout, all I could type was "April...ran."

I was definitely happy to write it, and thankful that I could. The moment just lacked some degree of elation that I'd been expecting.

It wasn't a very intense workout. I ran a total of three minutes, broken into one-minute intervals (and also walked 27 minutes). It wasn't as difficult as starting from a completely sedentary lifestyle, but it certainly didn't feel like picking up where I left off either.

As I ran, I recalled the euphoria of finishing difficult runs in the past...my first 20-minute run....then my first 25-minute run. It's hard to get excited about three minutes with those memories still so fresh in my mind. Getting back to that stage will take months!

Do I have that much fight in me? YES! I am in this for the long haul, still committed to my goals. I just need to adjust my outlook a little. I think maybe I was looking forward to running again as if it were the end of one stage of my journey, the injury-recovery stage. The truth is that it's also the beginning of next stage, and now is when the real work begins!

It's sort of like going directly from high school graduation to your first day of college. There would be no time to celebrate how far you've come because the road ahead is long and challenging and requires all of your focus and drive. So I survived three minutes of running...so what? It's onward and upward from here. Well, more forward than upward, but you get the idea. :)

Oh, and if you're wondering, my leg held up fine. At one point I thought I felt a tiny twinge of pain in a familiar spot, but it passed quickly. It may have been all in my head...only time will tell!

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Weekly Case of the Mondays

I think I suffer from short-term muscle memory loss. Is that a real thing? I don't even know. All I know is that I don't swim on the weekends, and every Monday morning I feel like I'm starting over from scratch again!

No matter how great my swims are the rest of the week - and Fridays I usually push myself even harder - Monday morning is always the same. By the end of the workout I'm in slightly better shape, but for the whole first half at least, I'm slow and have to focus on every breath. My arms feel like they weigh a thousand pounds, and I sometimes forget to move my legs at all! It would be comical if it weren't so frustrating!

I guess it's not a huge deal, as long as I'm still able to complete a decent workout, and the rest of the week feels much better. It just has caught me off guard because I don't remember running being like this. There were always some rough days here and there, but they didn't seem to fall on specific days of the week or after a certain number of days of rest. And it never felt like I forgot how to run. It just felt more difficult.

So I don't know what my deal is. Maybe this is happening because I'm still so new at swimming? Maybe in a few months, my Monday swims will feel as normal as any other day of the week. Until then, I guess I'll just keep flopping around like a fish on a hook every Monday morning. It's just one more reason to wish the weekends would never end. :)