Working on My Fitness

Throwback Thursday: Lessons from the Master

A year ago right now, I started running.  I did it on my own.  I didn't talk to anyone about it; I didn't ask anyone's opinion.  I just . . . decided to do it.  I put the Couch-to-5K app on my phone -- and ran.

Most people we know assume that Tom "finally convinced me." Or they figure we were looking to "spend more time together."

Both of these things are FALSE.

Yes.  Tom is a Runner.  (With a capital R.)  He's been running for nearly all of his life (since he was 13).

Young Tom Running
Here he is in 1975 in Houston at the National Junior Olympics (cross country).

He ran cross country and track in junior high . . . and in high school. . . and even in college.  

He encouraged me to give running a try -- way back in our first years together.  But it wasn't my thing, and he didn't push it.


He ran.  I did other things.  End of story.


Tom running
This is an All-Comers race to open the track season at Boise State. (Which is why he is wearing his high school singlet ... instead of a BSU uniform.)

And as far as our running "together"????  Ha!  It doesn't quite work that way!  Let's put it in perspective, here.  When we line up at the beginning of a 5K (which we may run . . . "together" . . . as in both of us are running), one of us lines up at the 10:00 minute/mile marker.  And the other of us lines up at the 6:00 minute/mile marker.

Which means . . . One of us is crossing the finish line . . . as the other of us is just heading into Mile 3!

So.  Running "together" is out! 

College Tom Running
Running a 10K road race while in college.

When I decided to start running last August, Tom was supportive and encouraging.  Not in a "rah-rah-you-can-do-it" way, and not in a bossy, coach-like way.  He just let me go at it on my own, without any interference or pressure.

And, because I've been watching him run for nearly 35 years, I've picked up a lot of tips and pointers about running along the way.  Some things, I learned from just watching Tom train and work out over the years, and some things, he's explained more recently. 

I call them . . . Lessons from the Master.

Steeplechase Tom
Running the steeplechase - Boise State University, circa 1978.

Here's what I've learned about running from Tom:

  • Do it.  Or Don't.  (Just don't whine about it.)
  • Stretch.  (Always.)
  • Drink a lot of water.  (Before and after.)
  • Wear the right shoes.  (Proper fit; replace often.)
  • Just get out there and run.  (Of course it hurts.  That's how it is.)
  • Recognize that some days you'll just feel like crap.  (Run anyway.)
  • Hills are good for you.  Run them.  (Shorten your stride and don't look at how far you have to go.)
  • Don't overdress.  (You're going to be hot, even when it's cold.)
  • Face oncoming traffic.  (Make sure drivers can see you -- and you can see them.)
  • Take advantage of shade and sprinklers when it's hot.  (And know where the bathrooms are along your route.)
  • Running on consecutive days is Not Fun.  (Build in some rest.)
  • Sometimes you get injured.  (Take time to heal.)
  • Mix it up.  (Different courses, different distances, workouts that are Not Running.)
  • Don't shower until you stop sweating.  (Pointless otherwise.)
  • The trend to running longer distances without regard to time is completely overrated.  (Just run.  Try your best.  Nothing wrong with a 5K.)
  • Fartleks.  (Fun to say.  Good to do.)

I'm still amazed that I'm running.  And probably even more amazed that . . . I kind of like it!  
(I think Tom is pretty surprised, too!)





Over the weekend, Tom and I headed Up North . . . to our cottage on the lake.  


It's out a ways from town; secluded, but not remote.  

Baldwin . . . is the nearest town to our lake cottage.  It's about a 7-mile drive to the nearest grocery store and 10 miles to the "town center."  Some weekends, we never get close to town -- except for the drive in and the drive out.


But this weekend . . . was Troutarama weekend in Baldwin.  Something we usually avoid!  (Except one time . . . about 10 years ago now . . . when Brian and I went to town for an errand, not realizing it WAS Troutarama weekend . . . and got all caught up in the parade.)

We go Up North to get away -- and Troutarama tends to draw a nice Lake County crowd.  After all, Troutarama is Baldwins's biggest festival weekend (2nd only to the Blessing of the Bikes in May)!  Troutarama means . . . Carnival rides downtown.  A parade on Saturday.  (Of course) a fishing derby.  The annual softball tournament.  Community spaghetti dinners.  Live entertainment.  A beer tent.

And . . . a 5K!


Tom and I decided to run the 5K this year.  (If you look closely in the photo above, you can see a little ferris wheel.  That's part of the carnival "midway" set up through the middle of town!)


Tom was completely charmed by the Troutarama 5K logo . . . 




His favorite things!  He was All In!

It was a brutal course, though.  Dirt roads.  Some nasty hills (on the dirt roads).  Not. Fun.  Neither of us ran well.

But . . . 


Good Enough . . . to "sweep" our age group -- where each of us took first!  (One of us more impressively than the other.  But still. . . )


How fun was that?

We did skip the rides, the parade, and the beer tent, though . . . and headed back to our cottage for some rest and relaxation!  (And, yeah.  A beer from the fridge.)


I call it . . . Lakearama!



June: Signing On for All the Things!

June . . . is turning into a month of personal challenges and commitments!  It seems that, somehow, I have signed on for All The Things.

I've signed on to this crazy 30-Day-Ab-Challenge thing on the Facebooks.  (Click the link for non-Facebook information.)

30 day ab challenge

And I'm knitting away on the TTL Mystery Shawl.


And I'm "streaking" by running at least a mile each day until July 4.


And now, Mary has convinced me that it would be great fun to play Summer Reading BINGO along with the Books on the Nightstand podcast folks.


All the Things.

It's going to be a busy month!


Not Quite What I Expected. . . But With a Silver Lining for Your Trouble

I was supposed to run a 5K yesterday.

And that would, presumably, lead to an inspirational blog post about surprises and goals and crazy things we do as we get older.




Tornado watch trumps 5K.  Ten minutes before the start.  (I was pretty grumpy.  I was already there and all, y'know?)

I did run it anyway.  But on the track at my gym.  (Nice and dry and tornado-free.)  I did quite well.  So there.


Since things didn't quite turn out the way I'd planned (anyway you look at it), how about a silver lining?

Last week, I mentioned my Mom's Lemon Cheese Salad, a staple at our Thanksgiving dinners for decades.  Because several of you have asked for the recipe, my Mom was happy to oblige! 

Here it is:  my Mom's tried and true Lemon Cheese Salad!

Screen Shot 2013-11-17 at 8.12.03 PM

It is so good.


It's basic and rather plain looking.  My Mom recommends that you "jazz it up" a bit if you serve it at an event like a potluck -- otherwise people don't necessarily dig in!  (But when they do, they'll usually want more!)  (My note:  it mixes GREAT with cranberry sauces of all types.)

And there you have it!  A silver lining . . . in a tornado watch.



Full of Surprises!

Running in that 5K last weekend . . . presented me with PLENTY of surprises. 

Pretty surprised that I'm running at all.  (I hate running.  Always have.  Tom, who is a life-long, serious kind of runner, has tried to get me running a few times in our lives.  It's never really worked.  He had nothing to do with it this time around, although he's been very supportive.)

I truly have a love-hate relationship with running:  It just plain sucks while you're doing it.  But you feel so awesome when you're done!


Really surprised that I can run 5K without stopping.  (Granted, I'm in pretty good shape to start with -- from aerobic dance and kickboxing and spinning and such.  But running?  Not so much.)  The Couch-to-5K program really works!  If you're interested in trying to get running, I highly recommend it.

Totally surprised that I felt confident enough to register for a 5K.  (It helped that it was called the "Salmon Run" AND that it's run in the town nearest our cottage Up North.)  I didn't sign up until a couple of days before, though.  I just wasn't sure I'd be able to do it, and I knew once I signed up, I'd be committed.


Not so surprised, actually, that the running of the 5K was really pretty awful.  (Especially because I made the ultimate rookie mistake:  I started too fast . . . and then paid the price for it on the hills later on.)

Totally surprised that I could pull it together enough at the end.  (Based on my runs over the past couple of weeks, I set my race goals as follows:  I wanted to run in 30:00, I figured I'd run in 32:00, and I didn't want to go over 35:00.  But, because of the too-fast start and the unexpected hills in the middle, I was reaping there on the final mile.  As I neared the finish line, I could see the digital clock ticking away . . . speeding ever closer to that 35:00 mark.  Could I do it?  Barely!  34:59.  Phew.)


Not so surprised that Tom finished the 10K race just a few moments AFTER I finished the 5K.  (He's very fast.  Still.  After all these years.)

A little surprised that Tom WON the 10K event. (He even won a bottle of wine!  That was exciting!)


And absolutely, mind-blowingly surprised that I placed 2nd in my age group!


Isn't that something?


Life is FULL of surprises!

Can't Stop

Today . . . I need a soundtrack. **


Five years ago right now, I was in the midst of being diagnosed with cancer.  Although I don't think about it quite as obsessively as I once did, I still think about it every day.  And, in many ways, that whole experience - from concern to worry to diagnosis  and right on through treatment and into  "survivorship" - has defined who I AM now.

This life is more than ordinary. 

If there's one thing that my cancer experience has shown me, it's that life really IS more than ordinary. 

So, reach out.

Grab it.

Wring as much out of it as you can.


Go write your message on the pavement.

Figure out what you really want to do.  And then do it.

Travel the world.

Learn new stuff.

Move.  Jump.  Stretch.  Run.


Can't stop, addicted to the shindig.

So, go do something big.

Something you never thought you could do.

Because . . . you can!  And, in fact, you ought.


This life is more than just a read-through.



**  This weekend, I ran a 5K.  Not that big a deal, really.  But, for me, it was a Big Deal.  My personal 5-year "thing."  I need to acknowledge the Couch-to-5K app for getting me going . . . and the Red Hot Chili Peppers for providing the soundtrack that worked best for getting me through the actual running part.  Their songs, in my ears, kept me moving.  (Can't Stop: Definitely my running mantra.)  But, mostly, I need to thank Tom . . . who never laughed and only supported my running efforts


Working on . . . my Fitness

Staying in shape is easy for me; it's part of my routine; it's my lifestyle.  But I know it isn't easy for everyone.  Fitness is a hard habit to adopt!  It takes a lot of dedication and commitment to stick with a fitness regimen when it's NOT something you love; when it's not something you're comfortable with.   I know . . .I see the January People sign up at my gym every year.  I see them crowd the cardio equipment and disrupt the running track and cause jams in the pool.  And then, sadly, I see most of them disappear before the end of the month!


Today, Carole has us thinking about Ten Tips for Sticking With Your Fitness Routine -- a great topic (especially if you need a little push to keep going with your January fitness goals!).  I've been a cheerleader for many of my fitness-seeking friends over the years -- and here's what I usually tell them:

  1. Find a fitness activity that suits YOU.  If you can find an activity that you can actually LIKE doing, you'll be much more apt to do it - and to find joy in it.  When I was a kid, I loved dancing -- so it makes sense that I still find joy in dancing.  If this is true for you, find an aerobic dance class -- or try Zumba or step aerobics or something where you can move your body to music.  If you liked playing in the water, try a water exercise class or swim laps.  If you liked racing your bike around the neighborhood, try a spin class.  And if you like curling up in ball to watch tv or read books, try yoga!  Just think back to things you liked to do as a kid -- and find a way to translate that activity to a fitness routine.  Because that kid is still there -- waiting to move again!
  2. Work out in a convenient location.  If you have to drive out of your way to get to your gym, it will be easy to opt out of going.  Check out the gym options close to either where you live or where you work; it's all about convenience.  Make it EASY to get yourself to the gym!
  3. Listen to your body.  Know that there will be pain involved in getting yourself in shape.  Learn to tell the difference between muscle aches and stiffness -- and injury.  You don't want injuries to sideline you --- but you also don't want normal aches and stiffness to stop you from moving forward either.  There are ways to modify most exercises and fitness activities to accomodate all types of injuries and disabilities.  Yeah, none of us are as young as we used to be -- that's for sure!  But we can still get moving -- at the level and pace that's right each of us.
  4. Figure out the way you like to exercise.  Do you like social aspects of exercise?  Try a class.  Do you need structure  . . . and a kick in the butt?  Hire a personal trainer.  Do you need peer pressure to keep you moving?  Find a workout buddy.  If you match the setting/surroundings to your preferred way of working out, you'll be much happier and more likely to keep at it!
  5. Make working out a priority.  I schedule my workout times on my calendar as if I were scheduling an appointment or meeting.  And then, I schedule other things AROUND my workouts. 
  6. Give new things a chance.  If you haven't worked out regularly for awhile, my guess is that you're not going to love it right away.  Lots of people quit before they even start to feel the benefits of their hard work.  So, accept that you won't like it right away . . . but that you might with enough time.  A couple of years ago, I wanted to add something different to my fitness routine -- to kind of shake things up again.  I decided to try spinning -- which looked just stupid and pointless to me at the time.  I figured I'd hate it, but I made a deal with myself:  I told myself I had to try it 6 times before I could decide whether I really hated it.  By my third spinning class, I was turning the corner, and by the sixth, I was sold.  I've been spinning 2 or 3 times a week ever since.  Give new things a chance - try them enough times to get over the initial discomfort.
  7. Wear the right clothes.  I'm not talking about fashion here -- I'm talking about function!  Invest in a good, supportive pair of shoes -- appropriate for your chosen sport -- and keep them available ONLY for working out.  A supportive, comfortable sports bra (that fits!) is a must.  And shirts, shorts, and socks made of wicking materials will keep you comfortable during your workout.  (Nothing feels worse than cotton t-shirts and sweatpants that sop up the sweat and weigh you down.)
  8. Set your own pace -- but put push yourself.  Set goals.  Use a journal.  Or an app.  Chart your progress.  Reward yourself.  Don't compare yourself to other people -- this is your individual journey.  
  9. Find some cheerleaders.  It's easier to keep going, even when you really don't want to, when you've got some friends cheering you on.  Find the support you need -- people who will follow your progress, encourage you, and kick you in the butt when you need it.  (And avoid those who want to pull you down . . . to sit on the couch with them. . . and just, well, not go. . .)
  10. Use music. When I work out, I like classes with good music that makes me keep moving even when I don't want to.  And I like it LOUD!  When I'm not in a class, I have my iPod workout playlist handy.  Songs can inspire.  Remember Rocky?  Yeah.  Music.
  11. (Sorry.  Can't help myself)  Don't be afraid to sweat!  Work hard.  Push yourself.  SWEAT!

Mostly, remember that it takes a long time to develop good habits.  At least 21 days, they say -- but, when it comes to a commitment like fitness, it tends to take longer. 

Just do it!

(And if you want a virtual cheerleader, let me know.)


Join the fun!  Sign up for Ten on Tuesday here.

Let's Get Physical!**


I am sort of a workout fanatic.  I visit the gym nearly every day, and I work hard when I'm there.  I usually do a high-intensity aerobic dance class a couple of times a week, a spin class twice a week, and a kick-boxing/hip hop class once a week.  These classes all come with music  -- and it's all about the beat.  Loud, lively, catchy-tune kind of music. . . that makes you want to work harder, jump higher, and just ignore the pain. 

That's what workout music should do:  Inspire . . . keep you moving. . . and dull the senses!

I have a workout playlist on my iPod -- songs I can listen to when I'm working out without a  built-in soundtrack provided by a class.


What are my 10 Favorite Workout Songs?  Let's just look to my playlist. . .

1.    Song 2 -- by Blur

2.    Walk This Way -- Aerosmith

3.    Fighter -- Christina Aguilera

4.    Learn to Fly -- Foo Fighters

5.    Look Around -- Red Hot Chili Peppers

6.    Smooth Criminal -- Alien Ant Farm

7.    Even Flow -- Pearl Jam

8.    Lose Yourself -- Eminem

9.    Mysterious Ways -- U2

10.  Born This Way -- Lady Gaga

How about YOU?  What songs do you like to listen to when YOU work out?


**  NEVER.  Not in a million years.


Join the fun!  Sign up for Ten on Tuesday here.

Getting Old

Soundtrack. . .


I like living in a climate where there are four distinct seasons.  I actually like them all.  Even winter.  I like snow (the more, the better actually); I don't mind cold temperatures (I have plenty of wool); and I like "hibernating" inside for a couple of months.

But, man, January is a drag!


I know it has 31 days . . . same as July.  But doesn't January seem to stretch on forever?  In a way July never does? 

The grey, dreary skies.


The freezing rain on top of melting snow.


The piles upon piles of dirty, melting plowed snow.


The ice.


The ice.


The ice.


And, perhaps most annoying of all, the January People at the gym!  I'm so ready for the January crowd to give it up and stay home.  Quit hogging the cardio machines I like best.  Quit slogging around the track.  Quit jamming up my Zumba class.  And, for the love of Pete, quit filling my Spinning class before I make my reservation!


(This was my gym parking lot last night.  See that building waaaaaay in the back?  That's the gym.  The huge parking lot is always packed in January. )

So. . . January?  You're a fine month and all.  But you're getting old.  I'm ready for you to end.

Trudging Along

Jenny and I go for a two-mile walk every day.


Although we used to walk in the evenings, we have recently switched to early morning (hello, 6 am!) wake-up walks.  I actually like getting up early and going for a walk.  It gives my metabolism a kick-start and begins each day with action.  And Jenny LOVES to go for a walk . . .any time!

Walking safely -- on dark, icy, unplowed, snow-covered streets (no major roads for Jenny and I) -- is a challenge in the winter.  We have plenty of warm clothes (even Jenny has a sweater and a jacket), Jenny has a flashing red light that attaches to her collar (it's sort of like walking with a police cruiser in full flasher, but it works).  But, still, I was always a bit leery of slipping and falling.  I was never able to walk at a confident, work-out style speed.

Until now!


(Sorry for the grainy pictures; it's dark at 6 am!)

After years of wondering if these would work, I picked up a pair and tried them out myself.


They stretch on over any pair of shoes or boots.


And they work!!!!

They really do make it feel that you are walking (or running, apparently) on dry pavement!  So now, instead of feeling like a Weeble (remember them?  "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down!") as I walk, Jenny and I can trudge along at a good, fast, work-out pace and work up quite a sweat to start our day.  Even in deep snow.  Even on ice.  These little contraptions have just become one of my favorite things!

If you walk in the snow, or on snow-packed or icy roads, give these a try.  For a relatively small investment (under $20), you can feel a lot more solid.  You'll be trudging right along -- just like Jenny and I!