Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Unconventional Training

When I look back on my favorite phases of running, up at the tip top is definitely right around when Marc and I got married - the October before, I trained for and ran my first half marathon with my sister.  I was shocked at how great the race felt and how great I felt afterward.  The following May, I ran my second half - my first of many Brooklyn Half Marathons, and I've never felt as good after a half as I did after that one.

It's probably no coincidence that I was feeling amazing running at the time when I was at my lowest body weight of my adult life - and I was cross training like crazy in an effort to fit into my ridiculously tightly corseted wedding dress with Refine Method, a fancy boutique-y workout class that I had gotten a great deal on thanks to my association at the time with Athleta.  It focused on a variety of weight lifting, bodyweight training, TRX, and cardio - it was a full-body workout that left you flat on the floor by the end, every single time.

I got in the best shape of my life, I felt strong and amazing - and then I stopped going, because it was expensive and my discounted deal had run out.  I don't even know if I noticed a decline in my running performance at the time, but I think random aches and pains became more prevalent.

Ultimately, when I ran the Disney Marathon the following January in 2014, that marathon pulled back the curtain on every point of weakness and consequence of bad form that there was.  My right hamstring, left knee, left foot, and overall running and fitness really suffered.

Finally, in the fall of 2014 after fits and starts of trying to get back to running post-marathon injuries, I discovered my incredible physical therapist (and if you need help with anything ever, you must go to him!) and have been on a journey ever since to learn more about my weaknesses, strengths, running form, and how to handle it all.

I haven't been injury free by a long shot since starting physical therapy, but each issue that crops up has been a tremendous learning opportunity and experience to get smarter and stronger.

Fast forward to two and a half weeks ago, and in the middle of a five mile run, as I excitedly got back in the swing of running post-Costa Rica to train for this year's Brooklyn Half, my right hip flexor started feeling a little weird and tight and sore.  I kept going, taking more walking intervals and trying to figure out the exact right way to stretch so I could access the weird pain I was feeling.  Was it inner thigh?  Hip?  Psoas?

It's weird, it's off-and-on - but unfortunately, running turns it back on.  I've been going to PT twice a week and after a couple of attempts to run afterward, I've finally been hit over the hammer with the fact that I need to completely stop until the pain goes away (it always takes me so long to learn that lesson...).

And yet - the Brooklyn Half is in 23 days.  And I've yet to do a long run beyond a couple of 6 milers before Costa Rica - back in early March.  And I've now gone a week without any running at all.

My one saving grace:  I'm back to really spending time getting my butt kicked and getting stronger in a cross training class, this time with my local gym, The Rock in Astoria.  It only took living five minutes away from it for nearly four years to finally join.  I'm stepping up my strength training game - modifying movements that bothers my hip - with a TRX class taught by the incredibly fun and tough Dorothy.

Now that I'm stuck in a situation where I need to train for a race and I can't run to train, I'm hitting the gym as much as possible without overdoing it.  Instead of an 8 mile run this past Saturday, I took a HIIT class with Lizette, another fantastic trainer, and I was a puddle of dead muscles and sweat by the end.  Adding to that some long walks so I can tire out my legs without upsetting my hip, throwing in shorter, harder bursts of cardio through jump rope and biking, and foam rolling like a monster, and I really feel like I'm doing everything I can to get my body in better shape than it was the day before - which is pretty much the point of training for any athletic event.

Even though I'm feeling very under the gun by how quickly the Brooklyn Half is approaching, I've ultimately come to accept that if my body's telling me it's not up for it, I have to bow out and take to the sidelines, cheering on the runners.  As my partner in the Bk Half for the last two years, my work wife, bestie and running Sole Sister Laura keeps reminding me - All roads lead to November.  This year is the New York City Marathon which I have striven to be a part of for over two years with blood, sweat, tears, and miles.  If this injury is here to teach me a lesson, I think I'm learning it.  And I will walk that damn marathon if I have to.

To be a runner, running can't be the end-all, be-all.  It needs to be a part of a larger puzzle that respects your body's limitations, needs, biomechanics, and the weak parts that are telling you they need to be made stronger.  For someone like me who likes to make a training plan and rigidly stick to it, whose favorite thing is running above all else - it's a hard lesson, and it takes a lot of painful repetition to stick.  I think, though, that I'm finally getting it through my head, into my body, and hopefully that will translate to my hip.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Book Report: The Confidence Code for Girls

Another book report?  I know, it's crazy.  This is a short and sweet one - The Confidence Code for Girls by journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.  Kay and Shipman previously authored The Confidence Code, geared toward woman in 2014.  They broke down tons of research, interviews, and social science to discuss all the ways in which women struggle to build confidence and the ways in which they can overcome internal obstacles to build more.  They came out with their second version, targeted toward girls 8 and up, just this year.

I read this book after my friend & boss Shari loaned it to me - we both teach Girl Power Yoga classes at Karma Kids Yoga, and this is absolutely perfect for that and for pretty much any girl anywhere.

I had never heard of and still haven't read the adult version of The Confidence Code, but having read their book for tweens I both really want to read it - and almost feel like I don't have to, because this book is so thorough and still completely relatable, even for those of us out of those middle school years.

Through clear and relatable writing and impressive illustrations, comics, and graphics, the authors break down what they see as the three top elements to a confidence code - 1. Risk More 2. Think Less 3. Be Yourself.

It's that second one that definitely resonates the most with me - and also at first glance, sounds like the opposite of any advice we would ever want to give our kids.  We want them to always be using their brains, learning, and thinking more, right?  What the "Think Less" key actually addresses is the over-thinking and catastrophizing that so many women and girls do about so many things every single day. 

As women, we can so easily get in our own heads and get in our own way and hold ourselves back from doing the things we want to do because our high emotional intelligence has a way of seeing a risk from every angle, sometimes emphasizing the scary parts.  When we just do it - as opposed to overthinking and psyching ourselves out - we take the action necessary to gain more confidence.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this book to basically everyone - men, women, parents, kids.  Everyone is someone or knows someone who can benefit from the keys and fascinating research outlined in this book.  I know I would have devoured this book as a kid, and I think it would have really pushed me to be more of a risk-taker.

Check out a news segment on the book here, and happy Monday - especially a happy Marathon Monday to everyone out in Boston this morning!  Fight through this nasty weather and make it a beautiful day!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Book Report: Rising Strong by Brene Brown

Last year, I wrote a blog that wasn't quite a book report because I was too overwhelmed by the book to fully write about it.  The book was Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection, and it remains something I feel the need to turn to over and over and over again because it's just so chock full of wisdom.  I felt the same about her book Daring Greatly.

In Costa Rica, one of my missions was to do little else besides read in the sunshine.  I'm very proud to say that I accomplished that goal, and the only book of the stack that wasn't fiction or memoir was Brown's Rising Strong, the next of her works.  I wasn't sure if I was even going to read it at all, because I knew it would be a lot to digest and I was on vacation, after all.  Hardly the place you feel like delving into such topics as fear, vulnerability, shame, and failure.

But in typical Brene Brown fashion, once I picked the book up, I could. not. put. it. down.  The combination of her academic research and credentials and her gift for storytelling and Texan wit makes her books the kind that you know you should read slowly but you just can't stop.  I feel like highlighting the whole damn thing.

When a book makes you feel that way - and makes you feel like maybe you should start therapy - it can be hard to write about it a simple bloggy book report-y "I liked it!" kind of way.  I'll do my best to briefly summarize some of her key points, and leave you with some of my favorite quotes.

The cornerstone of this book is the idea of dealing with our failures or simply those moments that trigger a deep emotional response in us by slowing down and getting curious about what we're feeling and why - instead of whatever our typical reaction might be, such as lashing out or blaming others or wallowing.  She breaks this process down into the 3 R's - the Reckoning, the Rumble, and the Revolution.

The Reckoning is that moment when you know something needs to be addressed - maybe it's a very obvious and big failure at work, or maybe it's just a smaller moment where something emotional gets triggered by something seemingly innocuous.  The Revolution is applying what you learn in the rumble to live more wholeheartedly.

The book focuses on the middle part - the Rumble.  She writes, "The goal of the rumble is to get honest about the stories we're making up about our struggles, to revisit, challenge, and reality-check these narratives as we dig into topics such as boundaries, shame, blame, resentment, heartbreak, generosity, and forgiveness."  Part of the work of this is writing our "shitty first drafts" of what we're feeling when we're feeling it, a term borrowed by the inimitable Anne Lamott.  Not looking to be right, just looking to be as honest as possible, even if that brings up less-than-lovely qualities in ourselves or total irrationality.

This book much more than her previous two includes a ton of stories - both her own and those of people who have given her permission to share them - about struggles with work, family, relationships, and more - the big face-down failures and the small day-to-day frustrations.  She uses all of these different stories to illustrate how we can use the process of the shitty first draft and of delving deeper into learning the delta (or the difference) between what we initially think and feel versus what the reality of the situation is.  Are we assuming the worst about other people and ignoring our own share of the blame?  Or are we stuck in a shame spiral, when the reality is that we're being too hard on ourselves?

This book covers BIG topics.  I just finished reading it again, a little slower (and with a highlighter) after devouring it in Costa Rica, and I still feel like it needs a couple more rereads to get all the way into my heart and my brain.  So I'll simply insist that you get your hands on a copy ASAP and read it cover to cover a minimum of two times, and leave you with some of my favorite quotes:

"When we stop caring what people think, we lose our capacity for connection.  But when we are defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable"

"Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty."

"They [compassionate folks she interviewed] assume that other people are doing the best they can, but they also ask for what they need and they don't put up with a lot of crap." (most compassionate people I interviewed had most well defined/respected boundaries)...I lived the opposite way:  I assumed that people weren't doing their best so I judged them and constantly fought being disappointed, which was easier than setting boundaries.  Boundaries are hard when you want to be liked and when you are a pleaser hell-bent on being easy, fun, and flexible."

This last pull quote is actually not from Brown, but from a passage of Desmond Tutu's book that she quoted.  This hit me very, very hard - for most people, I think forgiveness is one of the hardest topics to grapple with, and she writes beautifully about it.  My favorite excerpt, though, is the Tutu passage:

"To forgive is not just to be altruistic.  It is the best form of self interest.  It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and hanger.  These emotions are all part of being human...However, when I talk of forgiveness, I mean the believe that you can come out of the other side a better person.  A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred.  Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator.  If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator."

This book came out three years ago, in 2015, and I still have to catch up to Braving the Wilderness, her most recent book which came out last year.  I'm so thrilled that someone with so many powerful messages is getting the success that she's getting, and I really think this world would be a better place if we all dove into the hard topics she covers in her books.

**Edited to add - check out her SuperSoul conversation about Rising Strong with Oprah Winfrey!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Back from Heaven

This morning, I had a three mile run planned, as being back in NYC means being back to my training plan for the Brooklyn Half this coming May.  And naturally, it being April and spring, there were at least three inches of snow on the ground waiting for me.

So, thanks for that welcome home, New York!

Today is our first day back at work after a beyond heavenly time in Costa Rica.  One of the most important things about breaking out of your regular routine, aside from resting and recharging and getting a tan, is removing yourself from your routine.  Our lives go through so many stages and phases, and it's important to remove yourself from your current identity - your job, your schedule, your apartment, your goals - and reconnect with that part of you that is not your current phase in life. 

We're trying to take back lessons and fit them into our crazy NYC life as best as we can - lessons you know intellectually are true and learn over and over, but are harder in practice than in theory.

Do less. Read more.  Doing nothing is not just okay, your brain needs it sometimes.  Sunshine is everything.

Nothing humbles you or brings you closer together as a couple than eating bad produce and dying of the stomach plague together.

Catch sunrises and sunsets whenever humanly possible.


Music Share - Aretha

Been playing this in my Prenatal and Mom & Baby classes since Thursday.  May we all have such strength and grace. RIP Queen.