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I’ve been out of training mode for a few weeks; although I ran while I was traveling, it was hard to stay in official half marathon training mode. I was really nervous for last weekend’s long  run, because according to my calendar I had missed a month’s worth of real training! My calendar said that I was supposed to be up to an hour and a half, but the longest I had run while on vacation was 45 minutes.

On Sunday, I woke up early and started my pre-running rituals. I drank 2 bottles of water and ate toast and peanut butter, and then I put on some of my cold weather running gear. It ended up being really beautiful outside, so I didn’t even bother with a hat or gloves. The rest of my team was in the same boat I was in, and we decided that we would try for 1 hour or 1:15.

At first, I felt really lethargic. Running in the cold means it takes a little while longer for my muscles to warm up, especially since I don’t stretch first (stretching cold muscles = bad). But once I got going, I felt like I could run for a million years. After about 40 minutes, I finally hit my stride. I didn’t think about anything, I only noticed the sound of my sneakers hitting the pavement, as I put one foot in front of the other. I think this is what they call runners’ high; my mind felt blank and I just kept going.

Although I was nervous about running for such a long time, I ended up hitting 1:27 – pretty close to the original goal of 1:30! It was such an amazing feeling. I can’t help but be proud: my schedule should have been thrown off after missing so many practices, but I was able to push myself and really accomplish what I set out to do. Sometimes loving my body can be a challenge, and sometimes I feel frustrated about my weight and strength – but sometimes I do something that my mind can’t believe, and I just have to admit that my body is pretty amazing. My body can do some really amazing things. Sometimes, I realize just how amazing I am, and it makes all of this worthwhile.

- Hannah

My half-marathon team at our first race

Last week, I set a goal for myself (actually, I do this every week) to workout 5 times. I write the goal on the top of my planner, and every day that I do a workout, I reward myself with a sticker. A giant sticker at the top of the planner means that I completed my goal for the week. I keep track of the classes I go to, my individual runs, and the amount of time that I exercise for. It really helps me to keep track of my workouts and feel as if I’m completing something.

My reward system

For workout 4, I went to a class that I’ve never been to before – rather, I’ve been to the class, but with a different instructor. The second the class started, I felt extremely frustrated that I couldn’t really do any of the exercises; it was like everything was so complicated and advanced and fancy, and I felt so weak and defeated! I felt like I couldn’t even do the modifications the instructor offered! I stuck the class out, and was happy that I made it through, but ultimately felt kind of silly and, to be honest, fat and out of shape. I know how important it is to, in the words of Dorie from Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming,” but sometimes swimming feels painful.

I realized a few things from this experience. The first is that I can not run on empty – exercising four days in a row may just be too much for me. I can certainly push myself, and push hard, but my body needs proper rest and recovery in order for me to do the things I want to do. I have realized this before, but maybe I didn’t really learn my lesson. I think I felt so frustrated with the class because I was really tired and sore from previous workouts. Something a little less intense may have been alright, but this class was so hardcore that I didn’t feel good about it. Secondly, I’m realizing that not every kind of exercise is something that I’ll like. It’s great to try new things, but at the end of the day exercise has to be fun, something that I want to do, not something I have to force myself into. The instructor was really nice and helpful, but I think that it’s ok that I didn’t like the particular class; it just wasn’t for me.

The trick is to stop myself from feeling defeated. In those kinds of situations, you just have to dig in and do the best you can!

- Hannah

So it’s only Tuesday and this week has already been crazy busy.  I’ve met a few new people through my volleyball meet-ups, which have turned into new leagues and tournaments to play in.  It’s a lot of fun but there is also a major social aspect (think: eating/drinking) to these newfound friendships, so I lately I’ve felt like I’ve fallen off the healthful eating wagon just a bit. Thankfully, I had signed up for Sunny’s Tuesday night Core BURN to help me counterattack those extra calories, especially the ones that sit in my core region. 

Sunny ready to pump us up!

Here are some of the highlights:

After the normal warm up, we worked on hills with bursts of speed for about ten minutes.

Coming off the treadmills, we did a circuit of eight core moves on the exercise and Bosu balls.  We performed each move for 30 seconds.

1)     Plank on the exercise ball

2)     Rolling plank on the exercise ball

3)     Boat pose extension on the Bosu (extend legs straight)

4)     Corkscrew extension on the Bosu (extend legs side to side like a corkscrew)

5)     Back extension with hands behind head on exercise ball

6)     Back extension with arms extended in the air on the exercise ball

7)     Leg extension on Bosu with legs extended straight back

8)     Leg extension on Bosu with legs in a V formation

After this circuit, we hopped back on the treadmill and worked on sprints slowly adding an incline to continue to work our glutes and hamstrings.  We ran for about ten minutes.

Heading up the hill...

Our final circuit of strength included doing each of the following for 30 seconds:

1)     Knee roll-ups on the exercise ball

2)     Planks with a moving exercise ball

3)     Planks on the Bosu (upside down) with a Burpee-style jump

4)     Rolling planks on the Bosu (upside down) rocking side to side and front to back

For our last turn on the treadmill, we ran it out for 5 minutes, starting with our 5k pace.  During the last run we sped up to “catch a friend” and then returned to our race pace.  Finally, we sprinted out the last leg of the race finishing hard.

In my opinion, a very good workout for a BURNed out girl!

- Kate

What do you do to get back or stay on track even when you get thrown off your routine?

I’ve been off the exercise wagon now for a bit. This is mostly due to the fact that my chronic pain issues have been off the charts. It’s hard to work never mind workout when your head feels like it’s about to split in two. It’s certainly easier to rest, nap, or watch television than it is to go to the gym when you aren’t feeling well. 

I haven’t gained any weight, but I haven’t lost any either. I just can’t seem to get out of this pain induced funk that I’ve been in since the beginning of the year. I know it will pass, once I see my neurologist again next week, and then I can reclaim the enjoyment of working out more than once or twice a week. I try to make the most of my time at the gym while I am there and I’m hopeful to get back on the wagon as soon as possible.

- Cindy

Does anyone else suffer with pain or chronic pain issues? If so, how do you balance pain, life, and exercise?

I scheduled a haircut for this past Friday, thinking I would go in to get a trim – I’ve had very long hair for pretty much all of my life (with the exception of one erroneous bob in the seventh grade). Since then, my hair has been very guarded, with carefully planned ventures into slightly different styles; trims limited to two inches; and tears at any slightly “drastic” results. This being said, I was feeling in a bit of a rut last week, and come Friday, the thought of a big change was suddenly appealing to me. After spotting an online photo of a celebrity with a cute short cut, I started to consider going short, and began asking for opinions. The office consensus was “yes,” the boyfriend vote was “un-enthused,” and my mom’s suggestion was to “take it slowly,” knowing my usual reaction to sudden change. As I considered the haircut, it started to take on a bigger significance. It wasn’t just about hair, it was about me being afraid to make decisions, afraid of change. So, in what I considered to be a personal act of bravery, I went ahead and instructed my trusted hairdresser to chop it off. I sat under the veil of my fringe as she worked, watching in mixed amazement and shock as 8 inches of hair was swiftly razored and cut away.

My New 'Do

Turns out, it looks great. And while I am enjoying the look of my new hairdo, as well as the novelty of something different, the real thrill and energy boost has come from plunging in and doing something that I was afraid of. All acts of bravery, big or small, give you a sense of power in life, which is what I’m feeling right now. Maybe the beginning of the New Year is a good time to just start saying “yes!”

- Jean

Are there any small risks you can take to help yourself feel empowered? What have you been missing out on because of fear?

It’s taken me a few days to feel like I’m getting back into my routine. Travel really takes a lot out of me, and definitely messes with my sense of time and normalcy. When I travel, it’s like, “sure, I’ll stay up until 3 and wake up at 7! No problem!” And despite how much fun I have, I cause my body a lot of additional stress through changed eating, exercise, and sleep. Now that I’m back, it’s time to get a handle on all of those elements of a healthy lifestyle.

To make my transition to real life a little bit easier, I decided to do two things. First, I got a massage at Healthworks with Lauren G. I haven’t had a massage in maybe two or three years, and I had somehow forgotten just how amazing they are! I told Lauren G. exactly what was bothering me, and let her get to work. The tightness in my shoulders and back melted away as I listened to soothing music and smelled the aromatherapy. I had the best night’s sleep after that! Needless to say, I am definitely going to save up (ah, student budget!) for a massage at Healthworks again.

The second thing I did was acupuncture. My friend, A., goes regularly for acupuncture, and recommended that I try a free session – so I did! I told the acupuncturist that I often have tension in my shoulders and that I have a little anxiety, and she put the tiniest of needles in strategic places on my hands, shoulders, head, and feet. And then I rested for a while and let the acupuncture do its thing. My friend describes the feeling as “a massage with the force” (ah, that’s a Star Wars reference…). The acupuncturist I saw was a part of Acupuncture Together, a nonprofit organization with a sliding scale. It’s a pretty cool place, if you’re interested in trying acupuncture.

Even though I’ve been back for a little while, and I’ve already gone to work and class, I am finally feeling ready to be living this hectic life! Plus, I know of some great ways to relax and de-stress.

Getting back into the swing of things with my favorite textbook

- Hannah

What do you do to ease yourself back into your regular rythm?

I woke up this morning feeling a little groggy.  The past week has been brutal.  Despite it being a short week, I was exhausted by Wednesday and looked forward to the weekend. Though I felt a little unmotivated (to say the least!) about working out, I got up this Saturday morning and dragged my butt over to Healthworks for Build and BURN with Regan C. I came in a little sleepy but jumped on the treadmill anyway.  After warming up, we started out working on sprints.  The sprints looked something like this:

 –          Recovery speed for 30 seconds
 –          65% of full out sprint speed for one minute
 –          Recovery speed for 30 seconds
 –          75% of full out sprint speed for one minute
 –          Recovery speed for 30 seconds
 –          90% of full out sprint speed for one minute

 For strength, we did a circuit of strength moves, performing each exercise for one minute:

-          Plank with alternating arm row
–          Mountain climbers
–          Bosu balance with core twist
–          Resistance squat for inner thighs
–          Backward lunge with shoulder press

From here we went on to hills, starting from a 1% incline, slowly up the hill to a 7% and then back down to 1%.  In this exercise we increased the incline while trying to maintain the same speed. After the hill, we went back to the gym floor to complete the strength circuit again.  Then we returned to the treadmill for one last hill with a full out sprint down hill at the end.  We followed up the running with some core work (variations of planks). The entire time we exercised, Regan was very attentive wanting to know how we were feeling and how we were doing. 

A BURN class in session

To my surprise, I felt energized after the workout.  Another member agreed with me saying that we felt better after the workout compared to how we felt walking in that morning. I left the class feeling refreshed and energized and in a way well rested.  After completing the class, I was ready to take on a long Saturday filled with errands and going out with friends.

 – Kate

What do you do to make yourself feel more energized?

Sometimes life and work can get in the way of playtime for me and of course, that makes me sad.  Because of this fact of life, I wanted to share a cool website that I’ve found to be useful for getting back into the things that I like to do, especially the team sports I used to play regularly.  

I mentioned early on that I am a volleyball player.  I began playing as a kid in middle school and I find it to be the best all around sport to play because not only does it take physical skills but it also takes some smart and sometimes sneaky thinking.  Either way, I love to play the sport but I’ve found it difficult to find others who play it, too.  And that’s obviously a problem when you want to play a team sport like volleyball.  That’s where the website meetup.com has saved the day.

With over 68,000 “meet-up” groups throughout the country,  Meetup’s goal is to organize people locally.  Meetups are gatherings of people with a similar interest such as playing volleyball, watching movies or reading fiction.  It is a great tool for those who want to be active because there are so many fitness-related meetups.  For me, I found a great volleyball meetup in my neighborhood and have started meeting new people each week I attend.  Getting people together to share in a similar interest has never been easier.  Not to mention you can also get in a fun workout, too!

There is something for everyone including walking/running groups, beginner sports get togethers and yoga meetups.  Take a second and check out the site.   Happy Meetup!

 – Kate

What kind of groups have you found that suit your interests?

I hurt my back!  My hips are really tight and I must have stretched something too suddenly on the thigh machine because a few days ago, I woke up and my back was really stiff when I tried to stand up.  I could walk, but sitting hurt and getting up was really painful.

On the first day, I went to HW and had a massage. Now, I’ve never liked massages. I have always found them painful, but Madelon was wonderful. The only place that hurt was where I had hurt my hip. I am sure that almost three months of exercise also made a difference. My muscles just aren’t as tight as they were.  My back still hurt after the massage, but the rest of me felt great.

Massage at Healthworks

On the second day, I spent the day in bed. Big mistake! Hours of sleeping to endless Law and Order reruns was no good for my back and terrible for my psyche. For the first time, I seriously considered breaking my diet. I was desperate for a pizza from Pizza Regina. I called my daughter to confess because I knew she would dissuade me and she did. Instead, I made myself a “legal” treat of a steak rollup with sautéed peppers and onions. It tasted great and was really satisfying. On the third day, I went to HW and did 30 minutes on the elliptical. The more I moved, the better my back felt. It still twinged when I stood up, but not nearly as badly.

Today, Bonnie made me do the foam roller on the floor. Now lowering and raising 227 pounds is no joke. And, for those of you who have not experienced it, the foam roller is a b**ch! I whined a lot, but Bonnie refused to listen to my entreaties. In the end, I did it. And you know what? My back feels almost normal now.

Once again moving is the answer.

- Cheryl

Do you have a favorite exercise that helps soothe your aches and pains?

After three exciting weeks of travel, I’ve finally come home again! I will say that as much as I love to travel, I am so excited to be home. I really miss having a routine and eating my normal foods. I missed my dog and my bed, and I missed going to Healthworks  while I was away! I’m really proud of myself; while I was away, I lost 4 pounds! This is impressive because it was over the holidays and because I was really terrified that I would gain weight while I was away. I think that my running and walking habits really paid off on this trip.

Now that I’m back, I have to do a lot of scheduling and figure out what I’m doing with myself. It’s time for me to start (cue scary music) my job search. Yikes! Luckily, I still have another semester to enjoy the student lifestyle. I have a day or two to get things in order and make a plan for myself.

Today is going to be a great day: I book a massage for myself! I’m going to go to a spinning class, clean up, and enjoy the day before school and work. I’ve never had a  massage at Healthworks , and I am really excited to try it out. This may sound silly, but travel is actually really hard work, and I could use a bit of a post-travel de-stress.

What do you do to get back in the groove after vacation?

- Hannah

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