Thursday, June 28, 2012

Facing my body image demons

I haven't really talked about body image on the blog before because I try not to dwell on it.  But after I posted about the Hot shorts and I got a few comments about how some readers didn't think they could wear those shorts, I thought I would talk a little bit about my own struggle with body image and weight.

Let's first go back a few years...

I played three sports in high school - soccer, basketball and track.  I never really thought about my body and I never really thought I was skinny.  My body allowed me to play sports and have fun and basically eat whatever I wanted.  I knew that I wanted to play basketball in college, so when everything aligned and I got the opportunity, I jumped at it.

I entered college and as a recruited freshman for the basketball team, I met with my coach and I was given a weight lifting and running schedule.  After the second week of school, we met six days a week (often in the mornings) to run, lift weights, and play basketball.  By the time I had my school physical at the start of the season in late October, I had gained 15 pounds.  I was a solid 160 pounds and built like a basketball player.  As a 5 foot 9 inch forward, I was strong and I could hold my own against the bigger, taller girls.

Gaining the weight didn't really bother me because I was in the best shape of my life.  Plus all my clothes still fit, so I felt like I had gained more muscle than anything else.  In pre-season for the freshman year of college, I ran my official fastest ever timed mile in 6:11.  I didn't really play a lot my freshman year but I did work my way to sixth man and first off the bench.  With the end of the season came post season which meant less training but more lifting. I continued to lift weights and I still remember my mom's reaction when I came home for summer break - she said my shoulders were massive and very muscular!  The summer after my freshman year was the first year I ran a real race because I wanted to run it - The Boilermaker 15k - and I fell in love with running for real.  I had been running for years and years but it wasn't until that race that I started to run for fun and not for training for a sport.

Fast forward to my senior season of basketball in college - I was the starting forward and captain.  I was in charge of my team and it had been a great three years so far of basketball and college.  Not to say there weren't times when things were hard but I was pretty excited about being a senior and leading the team.  I was still pretty happy with my body - it helped me to play the best basketball I ever had and to lead the conference in rebounding.  Of course sometimes I wanted to be leaner and skinnier but my body allowed me to do great things and so I was content.  But there were problems around me on my team.  Many of the freshman were facing body image issues and at first I thought that maybe things would get better once the official season started but when a freshman collapsed in practice, I knew I had to speak up and take action.

Eating disorders are common in women but they are most common in women athletes because of the demands and pressures to be in good shape and to be the best.  I feel the reason some women had trouble on my team during my senior year was because our coach forced us to have our body fat measured.  It was an awkward and horrible experience for me so I can only imagine what the other girls went through.  I was forced to come int the training room in shorts and a shirt and have my fat measured with calipers.  The male trainer measured my stomach, my quad and my arm.  At first he did it wrong so I had to go back again and have it done a second time.

Getting help for my teammates was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make and it did not get easy until we were able to over come it together and move on.  Once my team faced the issues of disordered eating, I think we became stronger as a team and we ended up having a very successful year.  At the end of that season I was feeling confident so I joined the college track team.  The coach of the track team had been after me since I was a freshman to join the team but I had declined in the past because I was focused on basketball.  With my basketball career over, I felt it was time to move onto something new.

I came onto the track team and was welcomed onto the girls team but I didn't feel like I fit in.  I had the body of a basketball player while I was surrounded by lean runners.  I felt out of place and I definitely did not feel comfortable in the track uniform.  I actually did not do to much running my first season of track; I threw the shot put and ran a few 800m races.  At the end of the season, I knew I wanted to be faster like the other girls on the track team.  I wanted to not only run like them but look like them.  I wanted to shed my basketball body.

Over the summer before my 5th and final year of college (I was in a 5 year program), I started running more and more.  Thanks for my best friend from high school, I signed up and ran my first half marathon.  I felt like I was building a great endurance base going into the indoor/outdoor track season.  I ran a 5k PR just a few days before the pre-season started and I thought I was ready.  But as I started practicing with the girls, I still felt big.  I felt like I wasn't skinny enough to wear the same clothes as them.  I felt most comfortable in bigger shorts and shirts and avoided wearing anything tight.

As the season continued on, we had out first indoor track meet and I nervously put on my uniform.  The top was fitted and tight.  The shorts were very fitted and very tight.  They were my first pair of hot shorts and I was embarrassed to wear them. I felt like everyone could see every imperfection in my body.  After the meet, I saw photos of myself and wished I looked skinnier.  I hated my legs and how they looked into those hot shorts.

I slowly started to become more comfortable with my body as the season continued but I was never truly happy.  My body was doing great things - I made it to regionals in heptathlon (Day 1 and Day 2) and ran my fastest 800m time ever but I still looked at myself and thought I needed to be skinnier.  My hatred for portions of my body never got so bad that I stopped eating (thank goodness) but I did start to think more about what I was putting in my body.

I think the only thing that saved me from going off the deep end was the fact that I was actually doing well in my sport.  If I had been struggling with my workouts and my events, I think it would have pushed me to a dark place where I was so unhappy with my body and just everything in general.  It definitely takes a lot of mental toughness to be happy with the body you have and to push forward.

After college, I started running more and more.  Whenever I had to take a break from running, I would immediatly get worried about gaining weight.  And in fact, most times that I have been injured I have gained a little weight but the fact that I have slimed down again to running shape has given me confidence that I can make a change to my body in a healthy and controlled way.

Even today, three years since I graduated from college I still have issues with my body.  Some days I feel great and others I am self conscious and annoyed at how I feel gross or fat.  I think it is a daily thing to remind myself that I have a nice body and it allows me to run and do everything that I can imagine. 

We all have areas of our body that we wish were tighter, leaner, better.  But sometimes its just not meant to be that way.  Coming to terms with the parts of my body that I dislike has been an ongoing thing for many years.  Since college, I have lost the bulk muscle that I had for basketball and transformed my body into more of a runners' body.  It feels good to see the change and to know that I am faster because of it. 

For me, the area of my body that bothers me the most of just below my hips on my outer thighs.  I am the most self conscious about that area and wish it would just disappear.  I think I have a pear shaped body and often I just wish it was a little less pear.  There are part of my body that I do like and I know I should focus on those.  I like my shoulders and my abdominal muscles, especially after a tough pilates class!  I don't know if I will ever get over the portions of my body that I dislike, I do try to focus more on the parts that I like.

And so I wear my hot shorts to practice because even though I may not have the skinniest, slimmest body, I feel good in those shorts and they make me feel like a confident runner.  And I think that is what running is all about - finding the confidence inside of you every day to run farther and better than you did before no matter what type of body or body shape you have. 

So for your next intense workout, wear what makes you feel good about yourself and what makes you feel like a fast and strong runner.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I can't stop buying shoes

I kind of got caught in a down pour this morning on my run. When I first set out, there were some dark clouds in the distance but they looked like they has gone past.  I was at about mile 3 when the clouds over head started to get really dark. Then the rain drops started to fall and by the time I was at mile 4, it was raining so hard I could barely see.  My pace picked up quite a bit as I tried to get home but I was still a mile away.  By the time I reached my driveway, the rain has completely stopped, but I was soaking wet from head to toe.

The 5 miles this morning were pretty easy and I felt good out there running.  Sadly my Ghost 5s are now squishy and filled with water from the down pour.  They are going to have to dry out for a couple of days.  Thankfully I have another pair of shoes that I tried out on Sunday.


Brooks Pure Flows!


On the recommendation from my running buddy, I picked these new shoes up and decided to give them a try.  Since the Ghost 3s are not longer available I wanted to have an extra pair of shoes just in case the Ghost 5s weren't my favorite.  And the 5s are different from the 3s - they aren't bad but I do miss the Brooks Ghost 3s.

The Flows have a 4mm drop compared to the 12mm drop in the Ghosts.  I was pretty excited to try a more minimalist shoe and my Sunday morning run was a perfect time to try them out.  I had 2.5 miles on the schedule and I enjoyed every minute of it with my new shoes.

I can't really tell the difference in the drop just by looking at the shoe but my feet could tell.  It is hard to describe but with less drop on the shoe, I felt like I was running better.  I am not sure how my form looked or if I was striking my heel less but it did feel good.  As my running buddy says, "These shoes feel good but funny!".  I know that these shoes will take a little bit of adjustment and I plan on slowly working up my mileage in them so my legs and feet can get used to the lesser drop.

Today - a day after the run - my calves aren't that sore (I was warned that I might have sore calves).  In fact, I don't really feel any difference from running in the Flows yesterday.  It seems like the transition into the Flows will be easier than I thought!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Favorites: Books made into Movies/TV shows

Happy Friday! Thank goodness it is finally almost the weekend. Tomorrow I have a nice 9 mile run planned, followed by my regular Pilates class. 

Once again this week I have a Friday Favorite for you that is not about running!  Some of you may be familiar with the show Dexter on Showtime?  Well I had heard about it from friends but I had never watched it because we don't have the Showtime channel.  I just happened to be at the library a few weeks ago and a book caught my eye.  It was on the "Hot Book" shelf with many other popular books. 

It was the latest novel in the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay and I was quite intrigued so I went to the regular book shelves and looked for the first book in the series.  Happily my library had all the books, so I checked out the first two books.

In general I have always tried to follow the rule of reading the book, before seeing the movie and in this case I felt no different.  I wanted to read these books before seeing the TV shows.  I flew through the first book and could not put it down! I was actually reading this right after I ran the marathon and this book kept me up late a few nights which was not really conducive to a good marathon recovery. 

Currently I am more than half way through the second book and I already know I need to hit up the library soon to get the next few books of the series.  I always love a good mystery book and these do not disappoint.  Plus I can't wait to watch the Dexter TV series to see how they compare (or differ)!  I have heard that the first season of Dexter follows the first book very closely but after, the remaining seasons differ greatly from the books. 

I think it is kind of cool to read a book before seeing the movie - I go into the movie knowing that it wont be the same as the book and I am ok with that.  I like to see the different perspectives that the movie producer had compared to what the author was thinking/writing.  Plus I also like to compare it to my perceptions and ideas from when I was reading the book.

Fun Fact: Jeff Lindsay (the author) is the pen name of Jeffrey P. Freundlich.  And his wife is the niece of Ernest Hemingway!

Do you like to read books before they are made into a movie or TV show??

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's hot enough for hot shorts

When I first laid my eyes on these hot shorts in the clearance rack at the sporting good store, I knew I was meant to have them on my legs.  We were destined to share many sweaty miles together.  It was love at first sight.

The forecast for this week predicted hot.  Hot and humid and sticky, wear as little clothing as possible to run, pour water over your head, hot.  I knew I needed to wear my new hot shorts.  Perfect.

It was slightly awkward changing into my outfit at work and walking out to my car.  I managed to avoid seeing any people I actually knew but I did get a flew looks from other random employees who saw me sneaking out.

From this - 

To this -

 I was pretty excited to try run in my new shorts. And when I got outside it was hot so I was glad I was wearing them.  Although I love my Nike Tempo shorts, sometimes in the heat and humidity, which is when I tend to sweat the most, the fabric just sticks to me and makes me feel gross and uncomfortable.  None of those problems happen with these shorts because they are spandex and are very fitted. (Plus sometimes I sweat so much in my Nike Tempos, that it looks like I peed my pants. Not Cool.)

Once I got to the track to meet my running club, the sun was beating down and the air was thick.  There may have been an air advisory or something but that really didn't stop me from running.  I did my usual warm up of 2 miles then hit the track for the workout.

7 total miles later, with 6x400m at tempo pace (~7:06 min/mile) and I was soaked with sweat but I felt good.  And the shorts worked out really great - I am even thinking about wearing them in the Boilermaker race in July.

The only downfall (or complaint I have) about these hot shorts (spandex shorts) is that they ride up on me a bit. I seem to have a bit of an irregularly shaped upper thigh/butt area so I don't think that helps much in keeping these shorts in place. But even with that, I love them. And they make me feel fast which is always great, especially when its hot and that usually means running slow.

So even with the heat, I tried to make yesterdays run as awesome as possible.  The heat wave continues until tomorrow, then the temperatures apparently are returning to normal (70F +/- 5F). Either way, I think running in the heat is good practice.  Gets your body used to the heat that is coming in July and August!  Stay cool and stay hydrated!

**These hot shorts are also known as Under Armour spandex compression shorts.  They come in many different colors including black.  I was not given these shorts for any sort of review and the opinion is my own.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Its been three weeks

Time flies when you are recovering from a marathon.  It feels like much longer than three weeks since I put my body through the torture test also known as the marathon.

And even though my legs have long lost the soreness, I still feel the same.  I don't want to do that again.  But looking back, I am sure glad I did it.

It was a great experience.  Running and training through snow and ice, sun and heat, rain and sleet.  Fighting through long tempo runs and just plain long runs.  Looking back, I put in so much time and effort to this race and I am proud of how it turned out.  I don't think I would change a thing.

My mind likes to play tricks on me, because you see, my running buddy is already planning her second marathon in the late fall.  And it is slightly temping because I know I will end up doing most of the workouts and long runs with her anyways. 

So the one side of me says,

"Go for it. What is another marathon.  You will love it the second time. It will be different than the first.  The first was the worst.  The second will just be awesome.  No pain."

And then the other side reminds me of what actually happened on May 27th,

"remember how miserable you were? Remember the pain. Remember your legs aching so bad you thought they were going to fall off?  DON'T FORGET! It wont be better the next time."

And for now I am sticking with the idea that my first marathon was the one I will run for now. I can't say I wont do another one.  But I know it will most likely be a very long time before my second.

I am finally feeling like myself again.  My legs are back and feeling quite speedy I must say.  My easy morning runs are not so slow as they were back in April and May.  And I think I have finally have caught up on all my sleep so I feel energized and refreshed after a good nights sleep. 

It feels good to be back, good to be back to normal and I think I am ready to start ramping up the miles again and training.

My next race is actually not to far away.  I will be running the Boilermaker for the 7th time on July 8th (although not seven consecutive years since I got sold out of it last year).  I am slightly excited but also scared.  I haven't run that hilly 15k race in almost two years and I know this year will be hot.  I just hope I feel good and enjoy the race. 

After that race I am sticking with the plan of no racing during the summer.  Last year I called it "No Race July" and ran no races in July and so this year I am extending it through the whole summer.  I just don't like racing in the heat and humidity. 

So that is my plan and I am sticking with it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Favorites: Vegetable Gardens

I thought I would kick off this summer with some Friday Favorite posts.  I wanted to start by showing parts of my life that don't necessarily come up when I talk about running.  And since I am kind of in non-training mode for a bit, it gives me a chance to share other parts of my life.  So today I present my vegetable garden!

Brian and I planted carrots, broccoli, green and red peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and yellow and green zucchini (planted from nearest to farthest).

Two pots of Zucchini
About a month ago, Brian and I started ripping out the garden by the side of our garage.  It was overgrown and full of weeds because the previous house owners really did not take care of the gardens.  We pulled everything out, added a nice store edge thanks to our neighbors who had old stones they were throwing away.  Then we added nice top soil and peet moss to hopefully create some good soil for our plants.  We added the fence to hopefully keep out the bunnies. 

We may have gone a little overboard when we bought the vegetable plants because I ended up having to plant a bunch into pots - we now have 5 different large pots filled with vegetables.

It has been almost a month since we first put in the plants and we are starting to see them grow! They have gotten so big and we already have some yellow zucchini growing!

Plus our first tomato is already on one of the plants.  I am hoping by the end of the summer we are over-run with veggies!

I think the reason I wanted to have a garden this year is because my grandfather always had one.  Whenever I would visit in the summer, we would go into the backyard and pick fresh cucumbers for lunch or tomatoes for dinner.  Even though my grandfather died when I was 14, it feels like his memory lives on because he passed on the tradition to me of having a garden.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Rain

Yesterday I pulled into the parking lot at the track where my running group meets and was greeted by large dark clouds. 

I am a fan of running in the rain - when it is warm. And yesterday was a pretty warm day with lots of humidity.  But the rain never came - those big clouds just rolled right past and only dropped a sprinkle of rain.

After an easy 2 mile warm up, the running group met to go over the workout and then split into pace groups.  Since I am still in recovery mode, I was just planning on an easy run but the coach called me over to have a chat.  He said to add some 400m repeats at tempo pace to give the legs a feel for a bit of speed.

I was slightly apprehensive since I wasn't planning on doing any speed work until next week but I thought I would give it a try.  The first one was tough, but I just focused on increased the pace to something that was semi close to tempo pace.  With each repeat the speed became a little bit easier.

In the end I did 4x400m at tempo pace.  My tempo pace is still about 7:06/mile and the 400s were pretty close.

400m Paces - 7:27, 7:18, 6:53 (downhill...weeee), 7:03

I think this was exactly what my legs needed. A little bit of speed but nothing crazy or too intense.  Next week my coach said to increase the amount of 400s.  An easy gradual increase back into tempo and speed work.  Sounds like a pretty good plan to me!

Monday, June 11, 2012

A new breakfast

I eat the same thing for breakfast everyday.  Before the start of June, I was on a pretty good streak of almost two years of eating Maple and Brown sugar instant oatmeal every morning.  And I never got tired of it.  Every once in a while (or on mornings when I would go to the gym) I would eat eggs, but most often I would eat oatmeal. 

At the beginning of this month I decided to make a change because I thought I was not getting enough fruits and vegetables per day.  I would always have a banana with breakfast but that didn't seem like enough so I decided to try something new.

Breakfast Smoothies.

I thought this would be a great way to get more fruit (and possibly vegetables).  So I did a little research and found a regular berry smoothie to try last week.  I decided that after my morning runs I would whip up this recipe and give it a try.

Most recipes called for some type of milk and I try to stay away from regular milk because the dairy doesn't always sit well in my stomach, etc etc.  I went to the store to try and find some alternatives and I was overwhelmed by all my options.  I decided to go with the coconut milk because that is the only one I had sampled before.

The night before I had slicked up a fresh banana and put it in the freezer.  Then after my morning run, I took out all the ingredients and placed them in the blender. This was the perfect post run smoothie and the best part was that it kept me full until my morning snack at 10am (adding the greek yogurt helped with the protein). At first it was a little difficult getting used to a cold breakfast but I made sure to drink this with my morning coffee. 

Berry Smoothie
1 cup Coconut Milk
1/2 cup Chobani plain greek yogurt
1 thinly sliced frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen strawberries

Easy Directions
Place ingredients into blender and mix together!  So easy!

Over the weekend, I decided to try a different smoothie.  A GREEN smoothie.  I decided to try it on a weekend because I worried I would not like the "green" part of the smoothie and I wanted to have the time in the morning to make a second breakfast (oatmeal) if this first one didn't turn out.

I added all the ingredients to the blender and whipped them all together. (I actually ended up doing the blending part in the laundry room.  Brian was still sleeping since I made this on Sunday morning so I didn't want to wake him.  After I put all the ingredients in the blender, I took the blender into my laundry room, closed the door and plugged the blender in and blended everything.  The things I do for love, and a well rested husband!)

I poured it into the glass and took a little taste.  I was very skeptical at first - I thought the spinach would make it taste really gross but it was actually delicious! I could not even taste the spinach (thanks to the peanut butter!)  Now I have two new and very easy breakfast options and they both help me to increase my fruit and veggies intake each day. 

Green Smoothie
1 cup Coconut milk
1 thinly sliced frozen banana
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 cup (a heaping handful) fresh spinach

Easy Directions
Place in blender and blend until you no longer see spinach flecks. (Or blend slightly less if you don't care!) 

What is your typical breakfast? Do you always eat the same thing?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On National Running day, I rest

I am still recovering.  And I hate it.

Even though it is very tempting to run today especially since it is National Running Day.

The soreness has long since disappeared from my quads and I can walk fine.  I wake up refreshed and energized but when I run, my legs are not happy.

Monday morning was my first run since the marathon.  And I actually felt pretty good.  I woke up at 5am and hit the roads for some easy miles.  Tuesday night I went to my running club but just did easy miles and my legs were achy by the end of the run.

Today I must rest.  I am not enjoying this part of the marathon.  I enjoyed the training very much, I got through the race pretty well, and I just hate the recovery.  I do not like the down time and not bouncing back from a race like I have in the past after a half marathon or 15k.

First week of Recovery:
Monday: Off
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Easy Spin class
Thursday: Off
Friday: Easy Spin class
Saturday: Spin class + Pilates
Sunday: Off

I thought that taking a full week off from running after the marathon would actually make me feel better. Mentally I feel ready to go but my legs are not exactly following. 

Second week of Recovery:
Monday: Easy Run + yoga
Tuesday: Easy Run
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Easy Run 
Friday: Easy Spin class
Saturday: Easy Run + Pilates
Sunday: Off

I am really hoping that after this week of recovery, I actually start to feel better on my runs.  But of course I really have no idea what to expect since this is my first recovery from a marathon. I feel slightly frustrated because I miss running especially since today is National Running Day.  But I really hope that my body will thank me later if I take today off from running and rest.

So everyone that can, go out and run today and enjoy every step!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Clean your Yoga mat

A couple years ago, I received a great birthday gift from a very special friend.  It was my yoga mat.

Since then I have used it almost every week for yoga and it has been one of the best gifts yet!  But recently I have worried that my mat may be a little germ infested and need some cleaning.  In the past I have always wiped it down with a mild cleanser but this time I thought maybe I needed a deeper clean.

This afternoon I took my yoga mat out of my car which is were I usually keep it, and put it in my washing machine to wash it.  I was nervous about what would happen but I thought it might be worth a shot.

I set the washing machine to hand wash, put in a tiny bit of my detergent, turned off the spin cycle and set it to go.  And it WORKED! 

Once the machine was done washing, I pulled out my mat and toweled it off a bit to get the excess water off and then hung it up to dry.

I don't think I will be able to use my mat for my usual Monday yoga class tomorrow afternoon, but at least my mat is clean now.  It should be dry in a few days and hopefully to go for my usual Pilates class Saturday morning.

Before attempting, I did some research and found information about how to clean a yoga mat in the washing machine.  I did not put my mat in the dryer and would not recommend it.