3 Years and 13.1 Miles Later

Three years ago this weekend, I walked in a 5K.  A group from our neighborhood went to the event, with several of the friends participating in the half marathon.  I speed-walked the 5K.  It was challenging.  I finished, but I walked as fast as I could and didn’t have much of anything left to give by the end.

Three years ago (2nd from left):

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This past weekend, a small group from our neighborhood made a return trip to this same race.  This time, however, I ran the half marathon.

Same beach, this year:

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The race is completely confined to a state park containing tall trees, beautiful beaches and cold waters still filled with mini-icebergs.  The hills were challenging, but empowering.  With about a quarter of a mile before the end, we rounded a bend and caught sight of the finish line.

Unexpectedly, my eyes welled up and I burst into tears.  The woman running next to me, thinking I was faltering, turned to me with encouragement.  “You’ve got this!  You can do it!”  Indeed I could.  I wasn’t faltering.  My tears were from the realization that three years ago, I was standing in that very place watching and cheering for others.  I was on the sideline.  Now I’m in the game.

Wherever you find yourself today or wherever you’re hoping to go, take small steps in that direction.  Before you know it, you’ll look back and be surprised by how far you’ve come!  You CAN do it!

 

 

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To the New Girl in Exercise Class this Morning

YOU GO, GIRL!

Starting or trying a new type of exercise can be intimidating. Before going to the running store for the first time to be fitted for running shoes, I had a great deal of anxiety. It took me several days to get up the courage to walk in. When I began yoga, I “needed” a friend to come with me to help alleviate some of the feelings of inadequacy.

Little did I know, however, that the rest of the community of runners and the room of full of yogis weren’t there to judge my performance and I wasn’t there to make them feel superior. All of them were quietly cheering me on and willing me to succeed, and to join their seemingly exclusive club.

It turns out that seemingly exclusive club isn’t that exclusive after all. It only takes is a desire to join and commitment to try your best. So when you receive a smile or kind gesture from someone in a class or a passerby on the route, that’s our way of saying, “We’re glad you’re here. Keep up the good work.” And even if you don’t catch a smile or gesture, know that we’re ALL cheering you on the inside!

As for the lady who was in yoga class this morning, I don’t even know her name, but I asked if we could take a picture for my blog. Hopefully that didn’t scare her off. The exercise community is always looking for new members and showing up is often the hardest part!

Related reading: The next step can be sticking with an exercise until it’s to the point that you start to like it, as written about in “Do You Really Like Running?”

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Inspiring & Uplifting

Those are the two words I would choose to describe my day yesterday.  Yesterday was the 5K run / walk to celebrate the end of the fall season for our local chapter of Girls on the Run.  As luck would have it, I was the Race Director for the event.

For those who aren’t familiar with the organization, it’s a nation-wide not-for-profit with local councils that are started by interested communities.  Girls on the Run has a goal to inspire third through eighth grade girls to be “joyful, healthy and confident.”  There is a curriculum that works towards that end, and is delivered through physically active games and running.  The season culminates with a celebratory, non-competitive 5K that is open to the community (men, women, boys and girls of all ages and abilities).  After months of planning with an amazing committee of talented women, yesterday was the big day!

In total, there were nearly 500 runners and even more spectators cheering on the participants.  For many of (including my younger son), it was their first 5K.  To help alleviate some fear of many first time runners, there was a pack of WonderGirls and WonderBoys who signed up for the race and pledged to finish last… yes, last… so no other race participant would finish last.

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As the crowd of runners took off from the starting line and wound their way out onto the course, it was remarkable to see the wide array of ages and abilities of those who have been motivated to become (or stay) physically active.  It was a reminder to me that no matter where you are at… young, old, fast, slow, able or disabled… there is always room to move forward.

(For the record, if I had to pick a third word, it would be “exhausting.”)

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning (Part 2)

One of my first blog posts was titled Let’s Start at the Very Beginning… a Very Nice Place to Start.  That entry discussed “calories in,” which is half of the weight loss (gain or maintenance) equation Calories in + calories out = change (or lack thereof).  The other half of the equation is “calories out,” which is the topic of this follow-up post.

Before I began this weight loss / maintenance journey, I wasn’t measuring my calories in.  And I certainly wasn’t measuring my calories out.  So while I assumed that non-exercise movement (like brushing teeth, standing in line, folding laundry, cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming the car, etc.) didn’t really matter or add up to anything significant, I didn’t have anything upon which to base that thought.

Epiphany Alert: Normal, everyday movement can equal a lot more “calories out” than previously realized.  Additionally, consciously maximizing everyday activity can pay big dividends.

Several months into following Weight Watchers, they teamed up with the electronics company Philips, and released a nifty little device named ActiveLink.  It’s basically a super-pedometer, that not only accounts for steps, but also senses movement in all directions and velocity.  It calculates how much energy you have burned and translates that directly into Weight Watchers Activity PointsPlus (AP) that you then have available to consume.  (Note: Other companies have similar devices.  Other popular ones are FitBit and BodyBug.)

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The data that has been recorded by my AL is eye-opening.  On non-exercise days, the number of APs that I typically earn ranges from 0 on the low end to 3, for days when I’m up and moving most of the day.  On a weekly basis that adds up to almost an entire day’s worth of extra food that is available to be consumed!

Now I maximize EVERYDAY ACTIVITY every day.  So how do I maximize my everyday activity?

  • Taking extra trips to the basement to switch the laundry (and not sending the kids to do it!)
  • Walking to a neighbor’s house, instead of driving
  • Standing while folding laundry… standing burns more calories than sitting
  • Parking a little further back in the parking lot at the store
  • Cleaning the kitchen nightly (BONUS: waking up to a clean kitchen every morning)
  • Walking the compost from the kitchen out to the compost bin
  • Taking stairs instead of the escalator
  • Standing while checking e-mail – laptop stays on the countertop and not at my desk with a chair
  • Working in the yard (though not my favorite… as my husband can attest to!)

How do YOU maximize your “calories out”?  New ideas are always welcome!

Reader Question: I want to run, but need to lose more weight first. What exercise do you recommend?

I recently received a message from a reader.  She said that she wants to start running, but needs to lose weight first, and wanted to know what exercise I would suggest in the meantime.

My journey to running began long before I ever went for a jog.  Prior to running or losing weight, I began doing yoga and walking.  Both forms of exercise have their advantages and can help prepare your body for running.

Yoga primarily uses stretches and isometric poses to increase flexibility and strength.  There is a yoga style for everybody and yoga is a very individualized exercise.  All moves (know as poses in the yoga world) can be adapted for your body and fitness level.  As you progress in your practice, you are able to take the stretches deeper or hold them longer, if your body allows it.  For me, yoga laid the foundation and increased my strength, so that when it was time to start running, I had an adequate base from which to build.

In today’s information age, yoga is quite accessible.  There are clips available with On-Demand cable, countless YouTube videos, as well as DVDs available online or to checkout at your library.  For more personalized instruction, many fitness facilities offer yoga classes, including gyms, YMCAs and (of course) dedicated yoga studios.  Yogis are a very welcoming lot, so I would encourage you to not be intimidated walking into a yoga class or studio for the first time.

In addition to yoga, low-impact exercise is important for improving cardiovascular performance and burning calories, in anticipation of running.  Walking, biking (outdoor, stationary and spinning class) and elliptical machines are all excellent low-impact ways to start preparing.

So if you are wanting to give running a try, but aren’t ready to begin just yet, I would strongly encourage you to give yoga a look and find a low-impact cardio exercise that you enjoy.  Namaste!

“Do you really like running”?

I get asked this question often.  In the beginning, my answer was “No.  It’s hard and I don’t enjoy it.  But it’s a personal challenge and I just want to run one 5k.”  Towards the end of the Couch to 5k (C25K) program, my answer became, “I like having run,” followed by a giggle.  (The truth usually is pretty funny.)  After finishing the C25K program and a few weeks into the 10K Trainer program, the answer surprisingly became, “Yes!  I like running.  A lot.”

Running is my “me” time.  It’s how I clear my head, organize my priorities and challenge body.  It energizes the remainder of my day.  The bonus is that it gives me a little wiggle room in my weight maintenance journey.  (While I was actively losing weight, walking and running played a large role in helping me meet my goals.)

If you’re wanting to start your own Couch to 5K journey, here’s where to start:

1.  Check out the various C25K programs available.  There are many online ones that you can print out, as well as many free smartphone apps.  (I used C25K Free, by Zen Labs.)  The general premiss of a C25K program is to do intervals of walking and running.  The walking intervals eventually become shorter and the running intervals become longer, but it happens at a manageable pace.  The app queues you at the appropriate time to begin walking or running, and each session is usually between 30 and 40 minutes.  You’re even able to listen to your favorite music playlist or app (i.e. Pandora, Spotify, etc.) over the top of the C25K app.

2.  Invest in a pair of running shoes that are right for your feet.  The best way to do this is to be fitted at a local running store (not a big box sporting goods store).  You’ll probably be offered ‘aftermarket’ insoles as an add-on.  The advice that my physical therapist gave to me that I’ll pass on to you is to invest in a good pair of running shoes and skip the aftermarket insoles, unless you have a foot condition that necessitates using them.  (If in doubt, of course, ask your physician for advice.)

3.  Only run three days per week, no more.  The C25K programs that I’ve seen are broken down into weeks, with each week having three days of running.  You may find the earlier runs to be easy and think that it would be fun to check those  off faster.  Don’t.  Especially when you’re new to running, your body is going to need time to adjust and your muscles are going to need time to heal.  If you’re eager to log more miles, try walking on the off-days.

Here’s a picture with two friends and their little ones.  One of us dislikes running, but is determined.  One of us is enjoying having run.  And one of us loves running.  (Two are just along for the ride!)

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If you’re thinking about walking or running a 5k, you’re in luck!  You have just enough time to complete your own C25K program before the many Thanksgiving “turkey trots” that take place around the country.  Gobble, gobble!