Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hard Core

In the ongoing quest to be the best runner I can be, I've been working very hard on many aspects of fitness. Recently, I've been doing more cross-training (as opposed to the NO cross-training I used to do) and more intense core workouts.

These core workouts are dual-purposed. The first purpose is to improve my running. A strong core is vital. The second is purely selfish. I WANT SIX PACK ABS.

My coach Josh, aka Speedy Sasquatch recently asked Khrystyne (aka GlamFIT), a California-based personal trainer to share some core workouts that he could try out and pass along to members of the team. Khrystyne developed a plank-based core workout that is incredibly tough, exhausting and absolutely worth every second you spend doing it.

A few weeks ago, I began rocking the Plank Party, in my quest for a stronger core and six-pack abs!

As I started doing the first in the series of exercises, parachute planks with hip extensions, I felt good. This seemed easy. "Maybe I'm in better shape than I thought!" I foolishly dreamed.
I got through this exercise and moved onto the second, oblique crunches with hip lifts. And here, the ease with which I coasted through the first move went quickly away. The crunches were fine, but when it was time to extend my legs and lift myself into side plank position, I released an awful vocal grunt that made more than one person in the gym look over with concern.

I grunted my way through this set, and paused for a moment to catch my breath. I was sweating. Hadn't I been doing core exercises for month? Wasn't I in better shape than this?

I moved on to the next set of exercises, full planks with knee drivers. Throughout these I was beginning to feel the old Shake of Truth in my arms and my abs, that little quiver that lets you know your muscles are paying attention and will be screaming at you the next day. Usually, when I grunt and sweat this much I'm having a LOT MORE FUN.

I toughed my way through the next two exercises, rock and roll abs, and push-up crawlers. The crawlers nearly did leave me crawling and gasping for air and one old man at the gym asked me if I was alright when I was done with the first set. I somehow managed to gasp and grunt and sweat my way through the last three exercises a second time and take my shaking abs home.

Over the past few weeks, I've been doing this workout a few times a week, to supplement my old core workout and add more strength. Already, I'm noticing more strength in my abs and some definition where there wasn't any before. While it's gotten easier, I'm enjoying that this workout is still a challenge and it just motivates me to push myself further. I know that sticking with this is really going to be helpful, as I strive towards both my goals: improving my running and SIX-PACK ABS!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mission: Ass-kickery (Coogan's Recap)

Today I ran NYRR's Coogan's Salsa, Blues & Shamrocks 5K race. It's only my 3rd 5k race ever, my first one being my first race ever and my second being Coogan's last year. I was really pleased with my time from last year (26:48) and knew I could do better than that this year. So, when the alarm went off this morning, I was a woman on a mission, and that mission was Complete and Total Ass-Kickery.
The weather report for this Sunday had been less than stellar all week, predicting rain and temperatures in the 40s. Rain, I don't mind. Cold weather I don't mind. Together? Not so much a fan. But I was very pleased to see dry ground when I woke up and peeked out my window. I took my time getting ready, as this is one of the closest NYRR races to my home and had my usual race day breakfast (steel-cut oats, a bit of honey and a sliced up banana, all mashed in there). I gave Jeremy a good-bye kiss and walked out to take the bus down to the starting line. The temperature was pleasant -- more so than I had expected -- and while threatening, there was no rain yet. Naturally, as I got closer to the start, the skies started to open up. Never into a full-on downpour, but just nasty enough to be annoying. Bleh.

I was delighted to walk around the starting area, seeing other runners and bloggers who've become friends, like Joe and Ari, and the lovely, always smiling Robin. Robin and I walked to our respective starting corrals together and wished each other luck.

The rainy race started and, predictably, the first mile was crowded. I don't think I've ever bumped into so many people at a race. I took a quick look at my watch and realized I was cruising. Furthermore, I felt good. I charged ahead, weaving in and out of people and trying hard not to slip on the wet roadway. Up near the Cloisters, I spotted Elyssa just ahead of me. I caught up to her, and we ran together for a bit. At one point, I heard her say to me, "Go, girl!" I looked back and smiled. WOMAN. ON. A. MISSION. I kept hauling ass, making my way through the crowd, up and down the hills. At the last big hill, I booked it. I didn't look at my watch. I just looked at the ground ahead of me. As I reached the top, I thought my lungs were going to explode, but my legs felt fine so I told my lungs to deal with it. When I saw the finish line up ahead I gunned it, waving to Josh on the sidelines as I ran past. I stopped my watch as I crossed the finish. Final official time, 22:42. Better than a 4 minute PR over last year. Average pace, 7:19. I'm super proud of this race. It's really nice to feel, with every part of your being, that the hard work you've done is paying off. Numbers like these are the proof for me.

After Austin, I was honestly having some doubts about my goals for the NJ marathon, and I still do to be perfectly honest. But I'm getting faster and stronger all the time. I've still got so much work to do. But I probably wouldn't ever do anything if I knew I could do it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


This past Saturday, February 26th was a bit of a special day on my calendar. It marked the fourth anniversary of my first logged run. I’d gone on runs before that, casually, and even a less than stellar debut at a 5k race, but that was the day I decided that this was going to be a serious endeavor and I ought to treat it seriously. It was my fourth Runniversary.

In four years, I can hardly believe the changes that have occurred in my life. I ran my first half marathon several months after that first run, got married a few months after that, started graduate school, bought a home, lost my mother very suddenly, changed careers, and ran two marathons. The last three things have all happened within the last 10 months. It’s been quite a roller coaster. Sometimes, I think I barely recognize myself four years ago. I didn’t just make a decision to change my lifestyle, though. I made a decision to change my life. And I’m so grateful, every day, that I did.

Whether they’ve been good, bad, or ugly, I choose to celebrate every mile I’ve run. They’ve gotten me to where I stand now, feet firmly planted with nowhere to go but forward.

(photo by Elyssa)
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