Friday, November 16, 2012

Getting Back into Shape

Thursday night around 11pm I noticed an email in my inbox.  Reign was hosting a free Tabura class at the 34th St Crunch. I'm not currently a member, so this was the perfect opportunity to get in a great workout. Why not!?  I've missed Tabura and the gym in general, and I've missed the group exercise scene. Nowhere have I felt more at home than walking into the gym and getting ready to take part in a group exercise class, whether as a participant or as the instructor. I walk in there, I know exactly what to do and I feel at "home."  Of course I went to the class, nearly died, and had a blast.

Saturday morning rolled around and when I woke up, my entire body was SORE. I couldn't believe it!! Especially my back!!! Tabura is AWESOME, I swear. If you haven't tried it yet and you're a member of Crunch, definitely check out Reign's class.  Not only is it super fun and the energy is awesome, you will walk away DRENCHED in sweat and totally feeling like you got in a total body workout. You won't be able to walk the next day.

I really wasn't in the mood to go to Pilates the next morning, but as the instructor, I had to follow through with my commitment.  I took my time getting out the door and ended up being 15 minutes late.  I sort of knew in the back of my mind that no one would show so I wasn't too concerned about it. I sat in the park for a while just people-watching, then willed myself to get of the bench and go to the farmers market. On my way out of the park, I discovered a free pop-up yoga event!  I noticed all these yoga mats laying in the grassy triangle at the entrance to the park; I was curious and couldn't help but stop to see what was going on. Freelancers Union was promoting it's new health clinic in Park Slope and holding free half hour yoga classes. I figured, why not? Plus I could REALLY use something relaxing like yoga after yesterdays' Tabura class. So I ended up getting a free half hour yoga class, plus I walked away with a pretty sweet turquoise yoga mat and a matching carrying bag. You never know what you'll find in Brooklyn, I must say. I live in a pretty awesome neighborhood. (Did you know Brooklyn was voted the "coolest city in the country" by GQ magazine!?!)  Then I got in my shopping at the farmers market and made my way home in enough time to get ready for tutoring.

It's about time I started getting back into shape.  Going to Tabura followed by yoga the very next day was exactly the kick in the butt I needed. It re-ignited the fire inside, and I quickly rediscovered my passion for exercising.  I resolved to join the gym again immediately. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Getting Out of Shape

This weather has been dragging me down lately, and all the junk I've been eating hasn't helped my energy levels.  My poor immune system is struggling to deal with the changing seasons. At times like these, motivation is extremely difficult to come by.

I am out of shape. I'm very curious what my body fat percent is right now, because it's probably over 25%.  Even though 25% is considered the high end of "fit" "athletic" or "average" depending on what chart you reference, for me this is unacceptable.  Quite frankly, the ONLY reason I would ever reach body fat levels in the high 20's or even into the 30's, is if I sat around eating absolutely nothing but junk (high sodium, high fat, highly processed foods) and did absolutely no physical activity whatsoever for months on end. Or if my metabolism just decided to up and quit or crash for no apparent reason. I'm approaching unacceptable body fat levels and need to rectify this immediately.

Maybe my views on acceptable body fat percentages are somewhat skewed after being a distance runner, fitness enthusiast, fitness instructor and most recently, a figure competitor, but that's just the way it is.  Although I may appear to be fit and healthy, for all intents and purposes I am very out of shape. There is a lot of fat on my body.  I say this with complete objectivity, because it's true. 

Now, I know what you're all thinking... "but Julie. you're not fat. you've never been fat! you're fit and healthy and you've always been thin." Yes, to a degree this is true; my overall physique is still slim and slender, and I still have a fairly "fit" appearance.  I just have a lot of fat on my body. It's time to do something about this.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Aftermath of Sandy (personal essay)

It didn't seem that serious at first. I think all of us were a little desensitized to the media's warnings. Yet as more time passes, I am beginning to realize the severity of the storm that passed through just a few days ago. Never before in my life has a natural disaster of this magnitude hit so close to home (literally and figuratively). You know things are bad when half of New York City shuts down for almost an entire week. It may not seem bad in some parts, but just watch the news. Look at the pictures. This is real.
So many people are displaced from their homes right now, for indeterminable amounts of time, without electricity, hot water, or worse. Phone lines are down. Coastal areas are still under water. People are charging their cell phones in their cars, in stores, and on the streets. Elevators are down, and buildings are closed. Fallen trees are blocking roads everywhere. Building facades collapsed, cars overturned, electric plants exploded. People are concerned about loved ones safety and well-being. People are worried about their boats and shore properties, which they have no means of accessing to even assess the damage. Plans were changed, concerts and events were cancelled, birthdays and weddings were postponed. Even Halloween is postponed. Schools are closed for an entire week. Entire towns and cities were evacuated. To compound matters, the storm struck just 6 days before the nation’s largest marathon, and 8 days before the presidential election. Talk about a conflict of journalism interests. Right when we should all be gearing up for the marathon and the upcoming election, most people are far more preoccupied with the status of their electricity and public transportation. Funny how priorities can shift in an instant.
The effects of this storm are being felt nationwide. Deadlines are being missed left and right. Production timelines are being delayed and pushed back. Supply chains have been disrupted for multiple days. Deliveries are behind schedule. Flights are suspended. Trains are down. Roads are blocked. People are stranded. Stores are closed and restaurants shut down – some temporarily, some permanently. Independent business owners are loosing income. I’m not sure how the farmers fared, but I’m sure it wasn’t well. Countless offices have been closed for the better part of a week, because lower Manhattan has no electricity. Even where offices are open, so many people have no way of getting to work because the nation’s largest mass transit system is operating at half capacity until further notice.
Almost every single person I know was affected by this storm in some way, whether by personally loosing electricity and becoming a nomad for a while, or worse by knowing someone who knows someone who lost their home. I feel so incredibly lucky that I still have power at home, that I live in a neighborhood where business is back to usual for the most part (minus a few fallen tree branches), and that all my family in both NJ and CT were largely unaffected by the storm (besides power outages). I am blessed that all my friends and family are currently somewhere safe and sound.
My office has been closed all week and has no electricity, I am working from home with no remote access to our share drive, and I have no idea when the subways will be running again. I am fearful that the subways and trains wont be operational in time for my friends and family from out of town to see me run the marathon on Sunday morning, and I'm just as concerned about how I'll get myself to the marathon starting line. I am incredibly lucky that is my biggest problem coming out of this disaster. So many others were far less fortunate, and my heart goes out to them.
It is so easy to live inside your own little bubble and think, “well I’m fine, that really wasn’t so bad.” Just because you survived the storm of the century with minimal discomfort doesn't mean everyone else did too.
The outpouring of love and support that I've witnessed over the past couple days is truly touching. We all need to stick together and support each other, especially through the bad times. People are really struggling right now. People need clothing, food, shelter, supplies, somewhere to charge their phones and somewhere to take a hot shower. This is not a laughing matter. Be there for each other and offer help wherever you can.
The more time that passes in the wake of this storm, the more the effects are being felt. We though the worst was behind us, but weathering the storm was the easy part, compared to dealing with the aftermath. As we pick up the pieces in Sandy's wake, and everyone begins moving on with their lives, we will all come to realize the challenge that lies ahead - the ongoing uphill battle just to regain a sense of normalcy.
We will get there.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Consequences of running 20 miles

Last Saturday I just got up and ran 20 miles, seemingly out of nowhere. If you ask me, that's pretty freaking phenomenal!!!  I still can't quite wrap my mind around it or understand how I even pulled that off, but the fact remains, I did it.  I should just accept it and I most certainly shouldn't question it!

The problem was, up until this weekend, I wasn't making this marathon a priority. I needed to make it a priority.  So, the decision was made: Saturday was the day I would go for a long run.  Jack Rabbit Park Slope was hosting a group training run for free, and I desperately hoped I'd wake up in time. Running miles upon miles all alone can often be a sad, lonely, boring, and sometimes painful endeavor.  Plus the moral support of running with a group can help you maintain a steady pace and keep going when you otherwise would've given up a long time ago.  I overslept, per usual, and barely made it on time.  I jogged all the way to the store and caught up with the group just a couple blocks into their run - whew!

I'm so glad I went with the Jack Rabbit crew. Being with the group made things far less stressful; it was dramatically easier to simply follow someone else rather than tracking my own route or worrying about getting lost by myself.  It was great to have the company to chat with along the way. To be honest, if I had attempted that long run by myself I probably would've ended up walking.    

Perhaps most importantly, running with the group helped me learn to pace myself. We started at an extremely slow, very comfortable, almost laughably easy pace, but that was perfectly okay with me.  I knew we still had a long distance to go.  In the end it was great because it allowed me to really push myself, pick up the pace and sprint and push hard at the very end. I was stoked!  All told the 18 miles took us just about 4 hours, but when you account for all the bathroom stops, stops for pictures and delays at traffic lights, I have no idea what our actual pace really was.  Then I jogged the remaining mile back home, for a daily grand total of 20 miles.

The next day I was feeling so jazzed and optimistic from my long run that I decided to run to brunch.  SO another 4.5 miles were put on the books. Yay!  Only problem is that the additional miles did me in with blisters. Although my legs felt great and my cardio could easily handle that additional few miles, my feet were not ready to hit the pavement again so soon. I ended up developing blisters within blisters from the day before - If you've never experienced this phenomenon, you are lucky! It is PAINFUL! 

I took the proper precautions for blister care, popped and drained them, and covered them in bandaids. Then I put on shoes and the blisters immediately reappeared. They wouldn't dry out no matter how many times I drained them!! Meanwhile they started to hurt and I developed a blood blister.  I started walking funny and my shoes started to cut into the backs of my feet. Next thing I knew my feet were all cut and scraped up, and I could barely walk properly, let alone go running!!!  It's terribly discouraging and disheartening when you are feeling physically fit and healthy, motivated and ready to run, only to be debilitated by something so minor as a little blister. It' amazing how something so seemingly inconsequential can completely handicap you for an entire week. 

The pain persisted for an entire week.  Finally on Friday morning I noticed that it was starting to heal. Just in time for the weekend and another long run! Woohoo.  Good thing I got this long run out of the way so my skin had plenty of time to heal and toughen before marathon day!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tapering... or not...

Apparently this week is supposed to be my highest mileage week out of marathon training.  It's supposed to be the toughest and most taxing to date, where your mileage "peaks" and then you being to "taper," or cut back on mileage in order to let your body recuperate so you're well-rested and ready to go come race day. I understand all these concepts, it's just the execution piece where I'm lacking... if I spent as much time running as I've spent sitting around eating ice cream, I'd be very well prepared.

So glad that my grand total mileage for this week so far is 4.5 miles. Does running to the subway count????  If you count my frequent morning dashes to the subway, the total is about 6 miles.  Next week I'm supposed to start tapering. Wonderful.  I have no clue what I'm going to do.  That's all well and fine if you've actually been putting in the work and building mileage up until now.... but when you've barely been running at all,  "high mileage" is all relative.  To me, at this point, 10 miles would be "high mileage." But there's not much to cut back from 10 miles.  Everyone else is starting to taper and I'm just starting to kick up the miles.

This marathon is going to be a shit show (pardon my French..) I may end up sleeping in and not even making it to the race.  First of all, even IF I wake up in time, around 3:30am, which depends on IF I get to bed early the night before, and IF I make it to the ferry in time, and IF I manage to find my way to the starting line (given my record of lateness, those are all HUGE IF'S...)... even if I manage to make it to the starting line, then I still have to actually run the entire thing.

I don't know what I was thinking when I registered for this marathon, or what I was thinking when I figured I could get away with not training for an entire MONTH.  I haven't run any races this entire year.  2012 has been one of the saddest years in my running career to date. and now I'm supposed to run a MARATHON!?!?

The point was, I wasn't thinking. That's the problem.  This is a disaster.

I have no fueling strategy. I have no clue what I'm going to wear on race day. I have no idea how I'm going to stash and carry my gear. I have no clue if anyone I know is even coming to watch and cheer for me.  I have no idea how to pace myself. I don't know how or when to properly hydrate. I don't have a plan for race day morning.  I don't even have a strategy for the night before. I have no idea what I'm going to do.  I have 26 days left to sort all this out.

If I'm not going to put in the miles, figured I might as well prepare myself in other ways, so I've been reading lots about marathons lately.  Over the weekend, I googled "how to train for a marathon in one month."  The results were discouraging at best.  People such as myself who claimed to be "fairly fit but currently out of shape," who haven't been running and wanted to complete a marathon but only had 1 month left to train, posted messages, wondering if they were crazy/stupid, or if they could reasonably pull it off..... the grand consensus was that these people were out of their minds.  Most of the responses guaranteed that these individuals would seriously injure themselves, possibly incurring long term serious debilitating injuries.  Some people went for it anyway.  Some people pulled it off!  They completed a marathon with little to no training, preparing for 30 days or less, and they lived to talk about it!  (There is still hope!!)

There are some crazy people out there... guess I'm one of them.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Blind Determination

sooooo I am SORE from Pilates this morning. good grief. It dawned on me today that I haven't done anything remotely active in nearly 3 weeks... and yes I am supposed to be running a marathon in 1 month. 29 days to be exact.

I've been living in blissful ignorance for a long time now. Somehow I'm not even worried about it.  I refuse to recognize the magnitude of exactly what I'm about to undertake in just 4 weeks from today... I'm refusing to let the reality sink in that I am in no way shape or form even remotely prepared to run for 26.2 miles without stopping. Yet, I still have every intention of going through with this and doing it, and although I'm clearly not properly prepared, I still believe that I'll be able to do it.

Even if I just go out nice and easy, and just jog the entire race. Even if I have to stop and walk for part of it... if it happens, so be it. It would be completely mortifying, but can't get mad at myself for failing at something when I consciously chose not to prepare for it.  Besides I just want to experience this race - my goal is simply to have fun. I don't really care how I do. (of course I say that now... ask me how I feel after the race and I'll probably be kicking myself for not giving it my all.)

Tomorrow I'm planning to go for a long run. It's absolutely necessary at this point; it's my "do or die" moment.  If I can go out and run 12-18 miles comfortably and relatively easily, with minimal discomfort, I'll feel much more confident that I can tackle this marathon. If I can't... well... I will be in for a VERY rude awakening... but I'll worry about that only if it happens.  We're not even going to  entertain that possibility.

I'll conquer this marathon, propelled solely by blind stupidity and sheer determination.  It's amazing what you can achieve once you set your mind to something, and it's incredible what your body can do when you let your mind take over.  Marathons and endurance events are as much about mental toughness as they are about physical fitness. Perhaps even more so. My mind is ready to handle this race.

26.2 miles doesn't seem that daunting. I've done it once in my life I can surely do it again no problem.

This race will be difficult for sure, and I most likely will not be able to walk the next day, but I am going to do it. No matter what.

Monday, September 3, 2012

From Dusk to Dark

Light rain when I started, cleared up after about 10-15 minutes. Cops were stationed on every corner because of the huge Hispanic day parade. (Thank goodness I waited so long to go outside or honestly otherwise I wouldn't have been able to run anywhere!) It got dark around 7:45pm and I was only halfway done (had just approached the park) but it was lovely and peaceful running through Brooklyn Bridge Park at night. For the most part, things went smoothly and I moved fairly rapidly. It was easy to really push during the long flat straight-aways with minimal traffic and few pedestrians. Only got stuck at a few lights, which made it even easier to maintain momentum.

Running at dusk was difficult; the poor lighting made it difficult to see properly and very difficult to get a good sense of my surroundings. Nighttime was much better. Loved the view at the waterfront!

Legs are killing me! Still sore from yesterday's functional! My legs did not want to stay upright and threatened to collapse underneath me (knees actually wobbled a few times). Yet I still felt strong. Managed to maintain a forefoot strike the entire time!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fartlek in the Park

Fun run!!! It was extremely muggy - despite taking it easy and being out for under half an hour, I was completely drenched in sweat.  Made it back home literally just in time before the rain started.

Explored paths and trails through Prospect Park and had a blast. Discovered a nature trail and galavanted along the Long Meadow. It was way more fun than the bridle path or the roads, and even more fun than the cobblestone pathways.  Definitely have to go back!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Long Marathon Training Run #1

My first "long" marathon training run. wow. so much to say about this run. I went all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge, over the bridge into Manhattan, and then back home again. 8 miles! My longest run so far this year!

It was an overcast, relatively cool summer day, so I planned to go out around around 12pm. That didn't exactly happen as planned. Instead I sat around the apartment all day with a huge stomach ache and didn't make it out the door until nearly 6pm.

It wasn't easy. On the way my stomach aches persisted and gradually grew worse. I barely made it 2 miles when I stopped due to the intense pain/discomfort in my abdomen and nearly turned around to go back home. Somehow I managed to convince myself to keep going, so I started walking again, then gradually began jogging, and continued on my way. I picked up speed, fell into a relatively comfortable pace, and made it all the way over the bridge.

By the time I reached the end of the bridge, I had to stop to revive myself.  I took a quick break at the water fountain and popped some dried cherries while I deliberated over my next move.  I seriously contemplated taking the subway back home, then told myself that was dumb.  Part of me wanted to call it a day and get on the subway, but part of me wanted to forge onward and run/shuffle my way home.  I'd been out for 40 minutes and gone just under 4 miles.

My determination won out and I ran back over the bridge - the way back was so much easier. Surprisingly, the cherries helped my stomach feel better!  I fell into a groove, and since my stomach wasn't bothering me anymore.  I even zoned out a few times. However my feet started to hurt a lot. They kept banging up against the front of my shoe and my forefoot and toes were in pain. Either my feet have grown, or my new forefoot strike pushes my weight forward in a way that my feet aren't used to yet. Either way I need to purchase new running shoes. It's perhaps high time to get rid of the half a dozen - or more - old running shoes that I've been collecting, most of them are from 2008-2009 and are long past their mileage expiration. It's perhaps time to streamline my life with just one (maybe two) pairs of running shoes. So every time I stopped at a red light or intersection, I grew increasingly aware of the sharp pains in both feet.

Soon enough the pain transferred to my legs and I knew I had reached the point where my ability to finish my run would be a case of mind over matter. As long as I could keep running, I'd be fine, but the second I stopped my legs and feet would hurt so badly that I could barely walk. The only choice was to keep running, so I did, and I made it all the way home without stopping. Since I had taken it "easy" for the entire run, I had energy to spare at the the end and was able to pick up my pace for the last half mile and sprint at the very end.

I'm honestly shocked I lasted the full 8 miles. This is by far the farthest I've run all year, and I'm positive that if I can survive 8 miles then I can most certainly do 13. So I'm not worried about the half anymore. Not that I ever was worried in the first place... but it's comforting to know I can essentially just pop off the couch and run 8 miles. It wasn't effortless, and it certainly wasn't easy, but it really wasn't that hard either; for all intents and purposes, it was totally doable.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Hard Work Pays Off!!!

the results of my very first figure competition!
Progress photos below show my progression week to week, over the course of approximately 2 months of preparation, dedication, determination, and a lot of hard work.  The pictures on the far left were taken Feb 2, 2012 and the final pics on the far right were taken on April 12, 2012 just days before my show.
Right Side Comparison

Back Comparison

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Training for a Figure Competition

I can't remember the last time I went out for a leisurely long run. Actually, come to think of it, I can't even remember the last time I went for any kind of run. I can't believe how long it's been. You can't blame the hiatus on nasty winter weather - we've had a very mild winter, even more mild than last year. The lack of running isn't due to sickness - I'm healthier and more vibrant than I've ever been.  You can't blame it on lack of energy - I feel more fantastic and have more energy than ever before.

So what happened? About 2 months ago, I started training for my first figure competition, and immediately my entire world shifted focus. I am now a fitness competitor. I still don't honestly believe that about myself, but it doesn't hurt to say it. Maybe it'll drive home the point. I certainly don't feel like a runner anymore. My whole world changed and I didn't even realize it as it was happening. Whereas before I was concerned about things like weekly mileage, pace, PR's, and appropriately layering for the changing seasons, now I find myself far more concerned about fitting in training sessions, prepping all my food every week, pushing through extremely intense workouts, properly fueling and recovering, and practicing poses in 5" heels.

I mean, lets be real; I was never a serious runner anyway. I was never really obsessed with things like splits and weekly mileage, but my point is, I thought about them. Now, I don't think about these things at all. I don't have any races on my calendar yet for 2011. Normally when the NYRR race calendar is released, I jump right on the website to register for popular races before they fill up and/or the registration fee increases. I'll never forget last year sitting at my computer at work, reading through my Twitter feed, when I realized that the Brooklyn Half registration not only opened that day, but it was rapidly filling up and in danger of selling out the very same day. I absolutely didn't want to miss out on this race! I panicked, registered immediatley and sure enough, less than 24 hours later, the race had reached capacity. Then I ran the Brooklyn Half and it was such an amazing uplifting experiene for me, that I was super-charged for the rest of the year. In so many ways, it was the perfect kick-off to an awesome summer of running countless PR's. This time last year, I had a jam-packed year of races planned out well in advace and proceeded to dominate them all.

Fast forward to this year. I guarantee you the Brooklyn half has already filled up. I honestly don't know when registration opened.. I don't even know when the race is!!  I didn't even realize the NYC Half was this past Sunday until one friend asked me if I was going to run. I feel completely out of touch with the NYC running community. I have absolutely no idea what races are coming up in the next couple months, and I actually don't have a single race penciled in my calendar yet this year.  It's been over three whole months since I've been actively running - that's a quarter of a year! This is the longest break I've EVER taken from running since I started high school cross country back in 2002!  Through the years, I've gone through multiple lazy phases, but they never last more than a few weeks. I've been sick and deathly ill, I've been injured, had surgeries, been forced to stop running, yet I always return to running wholeheartedly. I just can't believe it's been that long.

Sadly, figure training and distance running don't mix very well. The last thing you want to do is burn precious muscle that you worked so hard to build by doing excessive long-form cardio.  I do miss running, and races, but right now it's just not an option. So until further notice, you can find me at the gym, I'll be there 5-6 days a week, hitting the weights and hitting them HARD.  After all, I'm only 3 weeks out from my first show!!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Looking forward to 2012

2011 was a great year in my running career. Over the course of the year, I got progressively faster and became a more efficient runner. I ran a PR at almost every single race! The only exceptions to this are the half marathons and the Ben Franklin Bridge Run (which I ran with my jaw wired shut).

2012 is shaping up to be another exciting racing year for me. Thanks to the NYRR 9+1 program, I'm IN for the NYC Marathon on November 4th!!! Since I have plenty of time to train and spring/summer/fall are my favorite seasons to run, I anticipate hitting many more PR's along the way. I'm still unsure of exactly what my 2012 racing season will look like, but I'm feeling incredibly optimistic. Stay tuned...