Couch to 5K Program Doggie Style

Over the weekend, we adopted a dog. Stupidest thing we could ever have done - we're never home, we've got two cats, and I hate to clean. But Doc needed a home, and I'm nothing if not a sucker.

So, Doc came home with us Saturday afternoon. We spent the day with him on Sunday and we all went for a short walk around the neighborhood. I took the week off to help him get acclimated, so on Monday we went out for another walk. 45 minutes around the neighborhood, with a few short bursts of an easy jog (I was in people clothes - not a comfortable experience, lemme tell ya). But we had a good time, and he got a nice workout even if I didn't.

Fast forward to Tuesday....well, it would seem that our 45 min walk was too much for Doc. 5 years of being a couch potato means I need to take it very slow with him, or else risk more pain and soreness for the pup. The slower I build him up now, the more likely it is that I'll have a running partner for a year or two (it's not a good idea to run large dogs once they're considered seniors).

With this in mind, Doc and I are going to start the Couch to 5K program. While I know that he'll never be able to join me on a long run, I hope to have a new partner for my neighborhood sleasy* runs.

*sleasy - slow and easy

I laughed so hard milk came out of my nose!

The good news: No more sit-ups (via)

Really now?

Well, I guess we shouldn't have done those back squats on Friday (shameless pat on the back - PR'd with 170 lbs, for 3 reps)/

Or the Tabata push-ups (with straight legs, oh my)!

The suggested replacement exercises mentioned in the article are great, in and of themselves (personally not a fan of a seated shoulder press). And admittedly, no one should attempt any exercise without proper instruction. But to actually come out and say "Don't do sit-ups/shoulder presses/straight leg push-ups/standing dead lifts"? Let's just add to that list and tell people to only walk/run on a treadmill (those roads are dangerous), don't walk up real stairs, just do the stair mill or stair climber, and while we're at it - stick to the shallow end of the pool. Don't want people doing anything potentially hurtful, now do we?

Wonder what that author would think about the ring push ups I've been doing....

Monsters and Mortals

How does (s)he do that????

Ever wonder what makes your fit freak friends tick? Well, here's a chance to find out! I'm gearing up to do a series of athlete profiles, aimed at finding out just "how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop?" (or in this case, whether or not our fitness idols have potentially sold their souls to the devil). Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to suggest possible athletes to profile, and then let me know just what it is you'd like to know! There will be a series of stock questions (thank you to the kids at for allowing me to hijack their PRT Person of the Day interview) with a few questions specific to that athlete thrown in.

So send me your requests, and I'll do my best to charm people into opening up and letting me in.

Keep your eyes peeled for the first installment of Monsters and Mortals!

Asleep at the Wheel

I see all sorts of crazy things on my drive into the city every day. Drivers eating oatmeal from a mug with a spoon (leaving how many hands on the wheel?), drivers reading the newspaper while going roughly 60 mph, drivers putting on makeup (mascara wand + eyeball + my extreme desire to hit you from behind = bad news), drivers using a hot curling iron near their forehead....the list goes on and on.

But this morning, I saw something that completely took the cake.

There we were, slowly inching towards the tolls for the GWB. In the lane beside us, there was a car just sitting, not advancing forward when the cars in front had moved. As we approached along side, I glanced over, expecting to see either a reader or a beauty queen.

She was sleeping.

After much honking, she finally rolled forward - only to close her eyes again once she caught up to the cars in front of her. This cycle went on until the final merge.

Aside from the obvious incredulousness of witnessing someone actually napping with their foot on the brake, seeing her sleep during her commute got me thinking: how many of us construct a training plan and then operate on autopilot? I know that I have been guilty of this on occassion - if it's written down on my calendar, then that's what I do. Period. End of discussion.

But is that an intelligent way to train?

I don't know about you, but I'm fairly certain that my body has no idea that Monday is Monday and Saturday is Saturday. It doesn't know that 7 days is a week and that in x amount of time I should have gotten y seconds faster or z percent stronger. It doesn't know that Thursdays are interval runs and Saturdays are long runs. Those are my calendar days, my impositions on that time. Generally, it all works out just fine and my body is on the same page as my calendar. But occassionally, it's just not going to happen. It's easy to try to force it - to stick to the planned workout. Lift heavy on a heavy lifting day. Run fast and furious on an interval workout day. But is it really going to get you the most out of your workout?

As athletes, only we know our bodies. We need to learn to listen to them - oftentimes they can tell us a hell of a lot. If you go out for that interval run and those 400s are harder than they should be (not just hard, but harder to the point that you know something is off) - maybe turn that run into a tempo run, or fartleks. If you approach the bar intending to lift heavy and it's just not happening, dial down the weight and take the time to work form.

The same goes for workouts that other people design for you - sometimes they just don't make sense for what you want/need. Take, for example, the recent workout post on 5 rounds for time: 25 inverted burpees, 25 pull-ups, 25 burpees. One hell of a workout if you can do all the components as rx'd, in a space that is equipped to handle however many people you're working out with. But if you can't do an inverted burpee, or even come close to doing the separate components well enough to piece one together - does it make sense to do the workout as written? There is no shame in modifying a workout to get the most out of it that you can - or just not doing it and opting to do something else. I attempted the workout above with a modified ivnverted burpee, and with a smaller rep scheme. What I really should have done was take the day to work skills - pull-ups and handstands, and gotten a met-con workout somewhere else. Intsead I got a sore tush and crick in my neck from poorly executed rolls :)

I am in no way advocating that you avoid the things you don't like to do, or wuss out on the ones that you find the hardest to get through. Merely that we need to occasionally take a step back, observe, and be mindful of what our bodies are really capable of doing on that given day.

In the end, we get far more out of a well executed workout that is less intensive than we would out of a forced workout that drains an already empty tank. Aside from the obvious mental strain of a bad workout, if you push your body on an off day the chances of being ready for another hard workout anytime soon are slim. Pull back today so you can surge forward tomorrow.

Use pencil when you program your workouts, and be flexible. And carry a good eraser.

Tuesday's Tip, November 11th

"When you erase something publicly, do it up and down - not side to side. Side to side makes your ass jiggle." - Robb Wolf, quoting Andy Stumpf

Strip Poker

As I drove into the city today, I couldn't help but notice the increasing number of naked branches on the trees that stretched out on the horizon. And decided that as those trees get stripped of their leaves, so would I strip myself of my increasingly self-deprecating manner.

Sadly, there are plenty of negative people out in the world ready to say something unflattering about you - don't make life more difficult by saying such things about yourself. It is our responsibility to be our own biggest fans, since we are inevitably our own worst critics. Be sure that your self-critique is constructive, not destructive. Balance out the assholes in the world with some well deserved self-love (get your mind out of the gutter!) and make your world a better place.

We are who and what we are, and I (for one) am attempting to learn to value that. I challenge you to do the same - by the time the trees are completely bare and stripped of their leaves, so should we be stripped of our tendencies to wallow in our perceived inadequacies and the habit of lending a voice to them. It may be hard, but we owe it to ourselves to recognize our greatness.

Now to put my money where my mouth is :)

edited to add:
In my internet meanderings today, I came across a post by Robb Wolf in which he expresses a similar sentiment (though far more eloquently). He recommends countering those self-deprecating tendencies by keeping a Gratitude Journal. Check it out here....

Pink Ladies - NYC Marathon Race Report

Well, I finally got to run in the NYC Marathon. It's, uh, big. Large scale. Ginormous. I am still conflicted on just how I feel about all that - on one hand the energy was great. On the other, there were too many people in my way, too much of the time. Perhaps by the time I finish writing this report, it will all become clear to me :)

On to the nitty-gritty -

Thanks to a pasta induced coma, I managed to get into bed Saturday night at 9:30 pm (8:30 pm once I set the clock back). Napped until just after the start of SNL, and slept like a rock until waking up at 4:05 am. Freaked out a bit, thinking my alarms didn't go off, but then I remembered that I had set them for 4:30 am. Whew.

Rolled out of bed, and sleepily made my way over to my plyo box, upon which I had set my running outfit (complete with bib already pinned onto my shirt) for the marathon. No longer naked, I went downstairs to prepare my pre-race breakfast (bagel and peanut butter), threw it in my bag along with a few other snacks, and double checked that I had everything I needed. I was about to head out the door to meet my local running club's chartered bus when Mr. Diva sauntered downstairs. I had opted to leave sleeping beauty in bed, but Milo (the cat) had other ideas and woke him up with a lovely puking session. Luckily, I was able to benefit from this and bartered a clean up session with a ride to the bus :)

After a quick drive to the park-n-ride, I got on the bus along with a large contingent of local Rockland runners, including my fellow Pink Lady - running partner Mary Pat. Today was all about running together and just having a great time. Dorks that we are, MP and I were both in bright hot pink running shirts. I completed my dork outfit with a race vest by Nathan - have I mentioned lately that I'm a particularly unattractive runner? ;)

Our trusty driver dropped us all off into the brisk 7 am air and MP and I made our way to the Blue athlete's village. Earlier, another friend had managed to score a cardboard box, and she graciously made room for our tushes so we were spared the misery of 3.5 hours of sitting on a cold surface (thanks, Melanie - you rock and you looked adorable in your running skirt!). Instead, we were able to sit like a hobo on a cardboard box for 3.5 hours, with frozen fingers and toes, waiting for our turn to begin to run. We had smartly packed our own supply of TP, and I had brought along 3 gossip mags to occupy our time. I quickly learned that it's difficult to turn magazine pages with dollar store fleece gloves on, but that you can use your tongue to lift the page enough to slide a fleeced finger in. Ah, the glamorous NYC marathon.

After what felt like 3.5 hours of sitting in the cold (ok, so it actually WAS 3.5 hours of sitting in the cold), wave 3 made our way to the start of the 2008 NYC Marathon. With a bit of hubbabaloo and an early morning rendition of "America The Beautiful", the cannon sounded and we were off!

We crossed the Verrazano Bridge amidst a sea of discarded hats, gloves and windbreakers and entered Brooklyn (which, btw, I have decided that although it's a pain in the ass to get to from Rockland, is pretty cool. But please don't tell anyone I said that!). What followed was a very breezy half marathon, complete with lots of great music and cheering crowds. This was where we first heard "Go Pink Ladies!", and it actually took us a moment to realize that it was meant for us. Dorks. GREAT time. I even passed by CrossFit South Brooklyn, where I'd had my nutrition certification on Saturday having no idea that it was on the marathon route! Big city, small world. At the halfway mark, we were only 3 minutes behind my 2007 marathon time, giving me hope that we'd miraculously pull off a faster finish than planned.

We crossed the Pulaski bridge and entered Queens. MP summed up the Queens experience in one statement "All you do is turn in Queens!" - a throwback to the Queens half marathon, which has something close to 67 turns. A fairly quick mile and a half or so and we made our way to the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge.

Coming into the race, I received quite a bit of advice in regards to this bridge. Basically amounting to this: the bridge sucks, suck it up and get across to the glory that awaits you up on 1st Avenue. The bridge in fact does NOT suck. However, the congestion created by slow moving runners giving in to the bridge, DOES.

The bridge finally out of the way, we made our way through a bottle necked curve and out onto 1st Avenue in Manhattan. The street was lined with spectators. MP had friend working the first water station, family waiting for her up near 92nd, and I had a friend about 10 blocks further north. We maneuvered up the avenue, keeping an eye out for the people we knew....all the while slowly moving northward through a sea of ever slowing runners. Apparently, 1st Avenue is virtually all uphill, but it's so slight so as not to be really noticeable. What is obvious is that it's long, straight, and have I mentioned yet that it's long and seems to go on forever? Thankfully we had MP's family and the lovely Maria to distract us :)

After what seemed like the longest 4 miles ever, we approached the Willis Avenue Bridge. As we got closer, I noticed that people were only running along one side of the bridge. Hmm, curious. Once we reached the bridge I realized that the span was made up of metal grating and not a solid road surface. The race officials had put matting down on one side of the bridge only, which created yet another area of congestion. We were unable to weave through the tightly packed runners, and couldn't go around without running directly on the metal grates (trust me, not fun on the soles of your feet after 20 miles of pounding).

After crossing the bridge we ran to shouts of "Welcome to the Bronx!" to which I replied "Run for your lives!" (thank you Rachel). We were in the Bronx for all of one mile and I have to say they did a great job urging the runners on. Good things come in small packages :)

We crossed our last bridge, the Madison Avenue Bridge, and made our way down 5th Avenue towards Central Park. Much love and thanks goes to Rachel for waiting for me along 5th, handing me a gummy cherry and running with us for a bit - she's the runner who poisoned me with this sickness, and I love her for it. We then came upon my CrossFit family, who came out in full force, signs and everything! My only regret is that I had to run past them and couldn't stick around to play! Lastly, we came across MP's family one last time before the final stretch.

We entered Central Park at 90th street and were engulfed by runners. If you think regular NYRR races are crowded, just wait until the last 3 miles of the NYC Marathon! As we ran down the familiar pavement within the park, we were confronted with runners that were walking it in, who had slowed down to a mere saunter, limping with the battle wounds of a fight well fought. I had immense sympathy for their pain and suffering, but it was disheartening to be so close to the finish and yet have to fight tooth and nail just to keep running.

The race exits the park at the southeast corner and runs along 59th before entering again for the final home stretch. If possible, it was even more congested here, and several times I lost MP as we both fought for space. As the signs for 1/2 mile and 400 m came into sight, I made a final push to the finish (and really, there were times I almost did have to push people - it's a good thing my Mama raised me right), crossing the finish line in 4:29:59. MP was less than 30 seconds behind me.

Our first NYC Marathon was finished.

What followed was over half an hour attempting to make our way out of the park. But that's a different story all together :) Let's just say that it's loads of fun to run 26.2 miles and then have to slowly shuffle in a line, shoulder to shoulder with sweaty strangers, just in an attempt to go home.

As for the NYC Marathon? It is a superbly organized race. The support that the runners receive, from both the volunteers and the spectators is truly phenomenal. But as I said when I began this race report - it's big. Large scale. Ginormous. The amount of work entailed in getting to the start, and then having to wait for hours before running can be exhausting. The new wave start was a fairly successful attempt to assuage the congestion issues along the course. Since this was my first NYC race, I can't measure just how successful. However, having started in the 3rd wave we definitely ran into (no pun intended) a problem when we began to encounter runners that had slowed down just about halfway into the race. The runners seemed to slow even more at each bridge, eating inexorably into our time. After a point it was virtually impossible to recover any time, as the course got more and more crowded with every step closer to the finish. Whether or not this would have been a problem had we started in an earlier wave, I don't know. Also, it may not have been an issue if I'd actually been racing - perhaps with some added time in the bank earlier on I could have avoided some of the bottle necks. No way to know for sure.

What I do know for sure is that the NYC Marathon is a way to experience the 5 boroughs in a way that most people never will experience. If you can do it running along side a friend, it's even better.

And They're Off!

If you're in the NYC area tomorrow, keep your eyes open for bib#20200.

I'll be the girl wearing a smile.

......and a hot pink long sleeved shirt, black capri pants and a very dorky race vest. I'll be starting at 10:20 am, and the plan is to take it easy and enjoy an easy stroll through the boroughs, finishing approximately at 2:45 pm. After which, you can find me at the Shake Shack on 77th and Columbus (chocolate malted, anyone?).

See you there!!

For those of you who prefer the warmth and comfort of your own home, you can also track my progress online.