Sunday, April 29, 2012

What's Next?

Much to my dismay, I was not selected in the New York Marathon lottery. I am disappointed, in part because I've heard it is an absolutely incredible experience and in part because I was excited about having a race on the horizon. I wanted to have a goal and something to work toward. I wanted to feel like I was in the hunt again, and to revisit the incredible rush I've always felt when I would finish my long run for the week. No matter what else happened in the rest of my week, I could look back and think, "I finished an 18 mile run yesterday," and feel a great sense of accomplishment.
This time last year my only fitness goals were to stay healthy through the crazy wedding planning process and to fit into my dress on the big day. Now I want more. I want to gain fitness, to be stronger and faster than I ever have before. I don't want to run just to run anymore, I want to be running toward something. I want to be excited about a race again.
Of course, there will be other races and more opportunities to have those great feelings in the future, but for now I'm paging through Runner's World's Race Finder wondering what is next for me. Philly again? Chicago? Running for charity? A trail race? 31 miles for my 31st birthday? Only time will tell...I just hope I can rise to the challenge when the right opportunity comes along.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

30 Before 30

Recently this article has been floating around Facebook.  It's a great list and a clever idea.  As someone who recently turned 30, I wanted to add my two cents, so below you can find my list of 30 things every woman should have by the time they are 30:

1)      A doctor you trust and can be honest with without fear of judgment.
2)      A hair dresser you trust and can be honest with without fear of judgment.
3)      A great daily sunscreen for your face.
4)      Experience living with a roommate.
5)      Experience living on your own.
6)      The ability to make at least one meal that doesn’t come out of a box.
7)      An understanding of what looks good on your body and what just doesn’t. (You can’t own what you have until you know what you’ve got.)
8)      Experience traveling with someone else.
9)      Experience traveling on your own.
10)   Experience taking care of something.  (A dog, a child, a grandparent, a plant, your favorite Prada bag…)
11)   A favorite book.
12)   A perfect story for cocktail parties.
13)   A favorite restaurant.  (A woman should know what she wants and not be afraid to speak up.)
14)   One activity that can make you happy, and can act as the perfect reward for a really bad week.
15)   A heartbreaking experience that you survived. (Nothing will make you stronger than knowing you’ve already been through the ringer and back.)
16)   The ability to write the perfect thank you note.
17)   A business card.
18)   Something to look forward to.
19)   A bra that fits and is less than two years old.
20)   A multivitamin that you remember to take more days than not.
21)   A driver’s license.
22)   A good handshake.
23)   The ability to speak in public.
24)   An email address that’s not embarrassing or something you created in middle school.
25)   At least one accomplishment you’re truly proud of.
26)   Someone you can count on to pick you up from the airport, take you to the emergency room, or bail you out of jail.
27)   The ability to navigate a city.
28)   A savings account.
29)   A plan for what you would do if you won the lottery.  (We all have to have dreams, right?)
30)   The confidence that you would be just fine on your own if you had to be.

What did I miss?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Facebook-Friendly Life

In this day and age, everyone controls exactly what they put out into the world.  Your high school friend posts her most beautiful Facebook photos from her exotic vacation, taken at the perfect angle so her abs look like she hasn't eaten sugar in a year.  Your old coworker tweets about the surprise four-course dinner prepared by his significant other... just because.  Your neighbor blogs about the 15 ways she incorporates vegetables into her child's snacks, all while running a Fortune 500 company and training for an Iron Man, complete with pictures of her perfect, smiley children.

It's easy to feel like you're the only one without the perfect body, relationship, and children.  The only person who doesn't have a glamorous job and can't afford to take tropical vacations on a whim.  Worst of all, it's easy to feel like you're the only moron who can't get on board and figure out what seems to be so easy for everyone else.

That's my problem.  It's not a lack of the perfect abs, relationship, job, or travel plans that frustrates me, but the feeling that there are people out there who have it all figured out... who know how to balance it all, be happy, and be good people when I feel like I am fumbling around just trying to remember my phone when I leave the house.

There may be days when I manage to work out, have a productive day at the office, drink 32 oz of water, eat 5 servings of vegetables, say my prayers, be nice to other people, call my mother, walk Clyde, do some laundry, and make dinner for my husband, but to be honest, by the next day I'm usually so exhausted and burnt out that I barely accomplish anything at all.  Frankly, there is just no way to have your Facebook-friendly life become your 24/7 reality.

But tonight while I was sliding open the bathroom cabinet and secretly wishing that my arms could look that good the other 23.9 hours of the day, I realized that just as everyone else can edit what they put out into the world, I can edit what I choose to put into world.  For example, I can ignore all of the wedding pictures where you can totally see my freakishly long hair extension sticking out, and just focus on the ones where Mike and I look really happy.  I can ignore the days that I eat a bowl of frozen yogurt stuffed with toppings the size of my head, and focus on all of the days that I eat a salad instead.  I can forget about the days when I feel like I'm not making any progress at work and focus on the meetings that go really well.  I can ignore the fact that I just started a paragraph with a contraction and focus on the fact that at the end of a long day I managed to write something before I fell asleep.

Of course, on the really bad days I can also remind myself that my high school friend with the perfect abs on vacation may have spend 90% of her vacation in the hotel with food poisoning while her husband was out surfing, only to emerge from her room for a 15-second photograph.  I can think about the fact that my old colleague's wife might using the four-course meal to apologize for the four pairs of shoes she bought at Nordstrom that afternoon.  And that neighbor with the children who eat vegetables?  Well, she may have bribed them to smile for the pictures with candy bars.  You just never know what happens in people's lives--what they are really dealing with or worrying about on a daily basis--because frankly, that's just not Facebook-friendly material.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

It's All In Your Head

Yesterday Mike and I took Clyde for a walk on the Radnor trail, a 2.4 mile paved path that was converted from train tracks into a tree-lined trail usually full of bikers, strollers, and well-accessorized dogs.  As usual, we negotiated our distance.  He started at 2.1 miles.  I started at 8.1 miles, hoping we could meet in the middle.  We settled on 3. (I think it's pretty clear who won that debate.)  It was a beautiful day with a light breeze and a sky so blue that it looked fake, and I couldn't imagine anything that I would rather be doing.  

We turned around at 1.5 miles to complete our 3 mile loop.  Even though I had campaigned for 5 miles, by the time we were at 2.5 miles I found myself eager to see the end of the path, ready to be finished.  It didn't matter that it was a beautiful day with wonderful company, and it didn't matter that I was perfectly fit enough to keep walking without getting tired.  If we had we decided to do 5 miles, I'm sure I would have felt the same way with .5 miles to go.  I realized that for me, it's not the distance traveled that seems to make me tired, but the distance I have left.

I've noticed the same phenomenon during marathon training.  If I set myself up to run 5 miles, by 4.5 miles I'm tired and ready to stop.  If I tell myself I'm going to run 10 miles, I'm tired at 9.5.  I have trouble believing that my marathon training plan is psychic enough to determine just when I get tired on a given day.  I think it's more that my body follows my brain.

This got me thinking.  How much of our fitness is in our head?  If we set our expectations higher, will our body automatically respond?  If we can learn to harness our brain, can we make our workouts feel easier and our runs seem faster?  If we set out to do 30 push ups, will our normal 20 seem like a cake walk?  If we try to bench 120 lbs. will 100 lbs. be no big deal?

Perhaps more importantly, is this phenomenon true in other areas of our lives as well?

I know it's true on car trips.  Growing up we drove up to Maine every year, on a trip that routinely takes between 8 1/2 and 9 hours.  I would be antsy by 8 hours.  So why would I get antsy just 3 hours into a 3 1/2 hour trip to Penn State?

If we set different expectations in our brain, could we change the way we feel about our lives?  Could we be happier, or make our day-to-day routines seem easier?

I'm not sure, but I think there is a lesson here somewhere, and I think that is that we might be capable of far more than we let ourselves believe, and that the first step of finding out just how much we can actually do may just be deciding to do it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award

Annie at The Little GSP was extremely thoughtful and nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award!  I was really excited about this for three reasons.  #1, It meant she commented on my blog, which meant that I got an email notification about something other than a sale at Piperlime, Steve Madden, or Nordstrom #2, Being nominated for any type of award is awesome (Grammy, Emmy, Oscar, and Pulitzer nominators, please know I don't discriminate), and #3 it gave me a built-in blog post topic for tonight!

Apparently as a nominee I am to thank my nominator, share 7 things about myself, and then nominate blogs that I enjoy for the award.  Part 1 is easy.  Thank you, Annie!  Annie's blog focuses on her dog Bailey (a friend of Clyde if only Clyde could keep up with her long enough to sniff hello), Bailey's Dockdogs competitions, and also features some truly yummy recipes with photos that will have you drooling immediately.  Go check out her blog right this second!

Now onto the 7 things about myself:
1) When I was in elementary school we studied Greek mythology and each person in our class was assigned a Greek God or Goddess to play.  Everyone, that is, except for me.  I was assigned Medusa, because my teacher said I had the confidence to handle it.  Really not sure whether he felt that way or whether he was punishing me for talking too much in class.  
2) In 8th grade I participated in an England Exchange program though my middle school.  We had students come live with us for a month and then we went and lived with them in England for a month.  It was a great experience and two of the girls from the program were bridesmaids in my wedding!
3) Ten years ago in 2002 I came down with Mononucleosis, Lyme Disease, and Strep Throat all at once.  I also lost my father, started dating my now husband, and spent 5 months in Italy.  It was quite a year.
4) I took tap, ballet, and jazz classes until I was 12.  I am still surprisingly ungraceful.
5) I have never been to Chicago or San Francisco, but am dying to visit both.
6) I've been to Maine every summer of my life but one, when I went to LA with two of my sorority sisters instead.  We visited about 10 sites from Beverly Hills 90210, which wasn't super-exciting for me because at the time I'd never seen a single episode of the show.  
7) I hate coconut.  Yuck.

As for the blogs that I would like to nominate:
Mile Markers 
Peanut Butter Fingers
Healthy Tipping Point 
Life of Blyss
Eat, Live, Run

I'm sure that everyone has already heard of and read these blogs, but I love them and think they're fun and inspiring.  I'm also happy to take suggestions for other blogs to check out!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Run Your Own Race

When I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2010, "Run your own race," was my mantra.  I had run Philly twice before in 2005 and 2006, and both times I started out way to fast, desperate not to lose ground and have people pass me.  I ran the first 10 miles at a 7:30 pace, way faster than my goal pace of 8:30.  I didn't want to stop and walk during water breaks, so I only managed to get a few sips of Gatorade in my system.  By mile 20 I was struggling, and the six miles left to go seemed virtually impossible.  I ended up walking a lot of it, even feeling light headed and a little out of it.  I finished in 4:26 in 2005 and 4:07 in 2006, missing qualifying for Boston by more than 20 minutes.  The worst part was, I felt absolutely awful and worried that I'd be able to make the walk to the car.

In 2010 I was determined not to make the same mistakes again.  I was older and wiser.  I wanted to force myself to start out more slowly in hopes that it would leave me with some steam at the end of the race and help me to finish more quickly overall.  It was harder than I thought it would be.  I felt like a little kid with an ice cream sundae as big as my head desperately trying to refrain from digging in.

Recently, this mantra has been popping into my head a lot.  Between Facebook and Twitter we are constantly reminded of what everyone else is doing... who is having kids, who is getting married, who just bought a house, who is going on an exotic vacation, who just got promoted, who just had a book published.  It seems increasingly difficult not to compare yourself with other people, and even harder not to feel like you're falling behind.  Sometimes it feels like everyone else is doing bigger or better things and you're just gasping for breath trying to hold a steady pace.

At these points I've been trying to remind myself to run my own race.  That God has a plan and things will happen when they're meant to happen and not a moment sooner.  That it's OK to take your time and enjoy the view.  That life doesn't have to be rushed through, and that in the race of life (yes, I just seriously wrote that) there are no points for finishing first.  It's more important to have the best experience overall.

For the sake of this post, I wish I could say that my, "Run your own race," mantra worked perfectly in 2010 and that I easily broke the 4 hour barrier.  Instead I finished in 4:15.  I felt great though, and had no problem walking to the car afterward.  I also had a heck of a lot more fun.  Maybe there's something to that.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


One day when I was a teenager, my father gave me a ride to my summer job as a lifeguard.  We were sitting in the car staring at the beige dashboard and I had just taken a break from switching the radio station a thousand times and driving him totally crazy.  I was complaining about a problem I had (probably an issue with a boy) and he told me something that has stuck with me ever since.

“You know one of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  I had never heard that before.  I think Oprah would call it an, “Aha moment.”

To me, this expression seems particularly true when it comes to health and fitness.  How often have you slogged along on the treadmill, completing the exact same distance at the same speed with the same incline week after week and expected your body to respond differently?  How often have you stuck to the same exercise class, used the same weight dumbells for months or years, and turned your nose up at the thought of trying something else?

I’m 100% guilty of this.  B.B. (that’s Before Barre) I would often do the same 5 mile run or the equivalent on the elliptical 5x a week, 52 weeks a year.  I never did any strength training, and while I would sometimes run outside instead of inside, I was totally fine with my workout rut.  I didn’t lose weight, but I didn’t gain weight either.  I was comfortable.  I didn’t love the 5-mile workouts, but I knew I could handle them and afterward I could go about my business feeling good about accomplishing something positive. 

That said, I was doing my body a disservice.  I was stressing the same joints time and time again and I wasn’t doing a thing to improve my strength or fitness.  Working out was never awful, but it was never fun either.  There were so many other things that I was missing out on!  Of course that’s not to say that I magically changed the course of my life and that I no longer repeat stupid of imperfect behavior anymore.  That’s because I’m lazy, routines are comforting, and sometimes I’m OK with not seeing different results as long as I get to eat the cupcake/fit in my jeans/afford to buy shoes.

I think the entire insanity philosophy extends far beyond workouts.  We treat our spouses the same way day in and out, and then are disappointed when they never bring us flowers, surprise us with dinner, or whisk us away on a fun vacation.  We complain endlessly about our jobs, but refuse to do anything to change the situation.  We drive home from work the same way each day and then feel surprised and frustrated when we get stuck in the exact same traffic.  We miss nap time and then get angry with our children when they have a meltdown in the middle of the cereal aisle at the grocery store.  We get back together with the guy who never really appreciated us, and then feel hurt when he doesn’t want to update his relationship status on Facebook.

While I have absolutely no advice on fixing your career, relationship, traffic, or children's meltdowns, I have been thinking about finding ways to mix up my workout.  Some I've tried, some I haven't, but I think any of them would be a great start for busting out of a rut!

Barre Amped (Tried, Love)
Rock Climbing (Tried, Enjoyed, Inconvenient)
Crossfit (Want to Try, Kind of Scared)
P90x (Want to Try, Kind of Scared)
TRX (Tried, Liked)
Crew (Tried, Liked, Sucked at)
Yoga (Tried, Love, Hands Slide Out of Downward Dog)
Pilates (Tried, OK)
On Demand Workout (Tried, Way Harder Than Expected)
Zumba (Want to Try, Kind of Scared)
Spinning (Want to Try, Kind of Scared)
Circuit Training (Tried, Great Challenge)
Body Combat (Tried, OK)
Kickboxing (Tried, Loved, Couldn't Lift My Arms for Days)
Marathon Training (Tried, Love, Couldn't Walk Down Steps for Days)
Hiking (Love, Not Enough Daylight, Need a Buddy)
Tennis Lessons (Tried, I'm Awful, Really Fun)
Golf Lessons (Tried, I'm Really Awful, Cute Teacher)
Swimming (Tried, Enjoy, Inconvenient)
Step Aerobics (Tried, Was Embarrassed by Older Women)
Softball (Tried, Enjoy, Need a Team to Play)
Kettlebells (Tried a Little, Kind of Scared)
Ice Skating (Fun, I Stink, Inconvenient) 

Did I miss anything?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

10 Things You Can Do Today To Help Your Health

My workdays during our busy season are typically 13-14 hours.  Add in a commute that is 45 minutes each way, and the day tends to dissappear in a hurry.  I come home, shower, go to bed and start all over again the next morning.

Of course, I'm not the only one with a busy schedule.  We all have a zillion different commitments and responsibilities, which can make it really difficult to fit in time for exercise or preparing heathy meals.  It's tempting to just throw in the towel and have an "all or nothing" mentality about  being healthy.  It's easy to think that if I can't run for 30 minutes, it's not worth getting sweaty.  If I can't eat dinner at home, I might as well just eat tons of pizza and start fresh tomorrow.  It's so easy to get frustrated and give up.

The truth is, little things add up, and even making small decisions to be healthier can keep you feeling good and motivated on the most hectic of days.  With that in mind I wanted to put together a list of 10 things that you can do on your worst day to help you keep your health and fitness goals moving in the right direction.

1) Drink three 12 oz glasses of water a day.
I hate water.  I know that's probably crazy, but I do, so if I can do this anyone can.  This is great for a couple reasons... first, if you're drinking water you're not drinking soda or other sugary drinks laden with chemicals and calories.  Second, it helps you feel full.  Third, at least at the beginning you'll probably have to pee all the time, which forces you to get up from your desk and move around more often than you would otherwise!
2) Fill your plate with at least 50% vegetables.
Preferably veggies that aren't covered with butter or cheese.  Vegetables are full of fiber (which makes you feel full) and vitamins (which make you feel energized), plus they keep you from filling your plate up completely with meats and starches instantly cutting the calories of any meal!
3) Donate to a friend's run or walk for charity.
Not only is it a nice thing to do, but having friends who are active makes you more likely to be active too. Add the benefit of that "feel good" vibe you'll get from doing something nice for others and you'll feel better about yourself immediately!
4) Book a workout class for another day.
Putting something on your schedule makes you far more likely to make it happen, especially if you have to pay in advance.  You also might find that it's easier for you to get workouts in when you have a limited time to do them... somehow when your day is wide open the motivation can go out the window.
5) Walk laps.
It sounds silly, but if you have 10 or 15 free minutes, walk.  Walk up and down the steps or circles around the hallway.  Sometimes I quite literally walk laps around my office building.  Sure you risk having someone think you're a weirdo, but chances are they are much more worried about what they're doing than what you're doing.  Walking burns calories and boosts your metabolism, and if you can get two or three 15-minute blocks in, it can really add up in a hurry.
6) Breathe.
Really breathe.  In and out.  In through your nose and out of your mouth.  Extend your inhale as long as  you can.  Push the air out of your mouth like you're squeezing all of the air out of a balloon.  Nothing makes you more likely to overeat or make poor health decisions than letting yourself get all stressed out and running around like a chicken with your head cut off.  Breathing helps you think more clearly, relax, and lower your heart rate.  It's free and takes two seconds and you have to do it anyway, so you might as well make it count.
7) Choose catching Z's over catching Leno
Sleep burns more calories than watching TV, and you'll wake up with more energy in the morning.
8) Take your vitamins.
If you're super busy, the last thing you want is to get sick.  Take the vitamins or supplements your doctor recommends.  It takes 30 seconds and can only help you.
9) Skip the elevator.
Take the steps.  It's the greener choice, and it probably only takes you an extra second or two... plus there is no waiting for the elevator to come,which is great when you're in a hurry!
10) Plan little rewards for little victories.
Just as you shouldn't take an all or nothing approach to your fitness choices, you also shouldn't save rewards for just hitting huge goals.  Little victories, like walking a mile a day for a week or hitting your goal for getting 5 servings of veggies each day deserve to be celebrated too.  Whether it's watching an hour of guilt-free reality TV, having a glass of really good wine, getting a pedicure, taking a nap in the afternoon, or planning a fun day trip for the future, give yourself the credit that you deserve!

Monday, April 9, 2012

One Bite at a TIme

When I talk to people who aren't big exercisers about running a marathon, their first comment is usually, "Wow, 26 miles!  I could never run that long."

Usually I wince a tiny bit, thinking that they left off the .2, which sounds totally obnoxious unless you've run 26 miles and know that that .2 feels like the longest distance ever.  It's the distance between you and your family, between you and a medal, between you and a cold beverage, between you and finally getting to stop running.  Oh, and there's also the fact that at that point you've already run 26 miles and still have to keep going.

I don't tell them any of that though, I just tell them the truth, "Oh, anyone could run a marathon.  They just have to really want to do it."  I believe that 100%.  Sure, that's not to say everyone should.  If you're 95 years old, 8.5 months pregnant, a heavy smoker, and hate pain it might not be for you.  That said, I really believe that if you want to run a marathon, you can.  

I think it's like the old saying, "How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time."  You run a marathon one mile at a time.  You set little goals for yourself.  You distract yourself.  You listen to music, you people watch, you count things, you zone out, you think about what you're going to do when you're finished.  You make it happen.

Sometimes in my life I get in the terrible habit of looking at the elephant as a whole.  I see it standing in front of me, totally massive, ominous, and formidable.  Then I get overwhelmed and either break down and cry, yell at my mother and husband, or totally freak out that I can't handle it and am going to fall on my face.  

I need to learn to treat my life like a marathon and take it day by day, mile by mile.  I need to remind myself not to look at the big picture, but at the little tiny bites that seem like things that I can handle.  Sometimes I need to distract myself or zone out.  I need to reward myself for the little victories.  (Maybe those days I could substitute the elephant for a Whoopie Pie?)  Some days I might be able to tackle bigger parts than others, and that's OK.  It's all a part of the journey.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Great Expectations

Recently I've been doing a lot of reading on my Kindle.  It's funny, as an English major I feel like I read Jane Eyre at least four times, but there were a lot of classics that I missed.  In an attempt to better myself (and not bring shame to my degree) I've been trying to alternate each best seller or beach read with something my former English professors would be a little more proud of.  Little Earthquakes (Jennifer Weiner), was followed by The Great Gatsby, which went to I've Got Your Number (Sophie Kinsella, Queen of the Shopaholics series), which was followed by Great Expectations.

I got off to a slow start.  My typical reading choices are rarely narrated by young men, particularly those who live with their sister and her blacksmith husband in the early 1800's and spend their days running off to marshes to find escaped convicts who demand that they bring them food and supplies.  I pressed on because even though I had a hard time relating to Pip, Dickens' writing is wonderful.  Poetic even.

That said, it was slow going.  For those of you who have a Kindle, you understand that it never tells you how many pages there are in a book, just what percentage of the book you have completed.  After a week and a half of reading before bed, I was barely at 20%.  I felt like I was slogging along.  Then I Googled Great Expectations and discovered that the book is in fact, 542 pages.  That made me feel a little better.

It also made me realize how much things have changed since this book came out in 1860.  With no TV, iPods, iPads, laptops, internet, Facebook, On Demand, DVDs, podcasts, blogs, or you know, electricity people were happy to spend hours on end reading a 542 page book.  Things moved at a slower pace.  People got their news in the newspaper.  People wrote letters.

Now we expect our books to be like our movies--short and sweet and full of action.  We don't have time for a scene to be painted for us, we want to know what happens next.  We expect births, deaths, scandals, tragedies, heartbreak, and all of the drama that goes with them.  We are inpatient.  We want to be constantly entertained or we'll declare something boring and give up.  We want the satisfaction of saying we read a book without the work of actually having to think while we do it.

All of this made me wonder what else I've missed in my hurry to finish something and move on to whatever is next.  What have I lost out on because I wasn't patient enough to wait for the reward?  What have I deemed not worthy of my time or effort because I was too stubborn to give it a chance?  When have I given up too soon because something didn't instantly meet my own great expectations?

For now I'll keep on reading.  By page 542 I think I will certainly have earned a happy ending!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Unexpected Consequences

When I started taking Barre Amped classes back in December, I was hoping for a new challenge.  After the Runner's World Run Streak I needed a break from the treadmill, and after years of spending 99% of my workouts running or on the elliptical machine, I felt like I needed to try something new.  I was also hoping that my body would magically be transformed into Heidi Klum's.  Maybe that wasn't the most realistic goal, but at least I'm honest.

I've taken about two dozen classes now and I will say, they're certainly a challenge.  They have worked my body in new ways and pushed me to my physical and mental limits.  There are points in the class when my legs start shaking uncontrollably like they are trying to do an Elvis impression without my permission.  When that happens, I just have to laugh.  I try to smile when the instructor counts down the last eight seconds of some pose that looks like a wall sit except that there is no wall and you're on your tippy toes, only to start another 8 second count down without a break.  I grin when I catch the eye of another student who is also trying to get a glimpse of the clock and willing the second hand to speed up until our pain is over.

Sadly, I still do not have the body of a German supermodel.  In fact, I have the body of plain old me.  That is probably due in part to the fact that I can only make it to 1-2 Barre classes a week and continue to eat cupcakes, Whirled Peace, and Cadbury eggs like the apocalypse is coming and being made of 98% sugar will help my odds of survival.

That sad fact aside, I did notice a strange change.  In my adult life, I've never been able to do more than one or two push ups.  My arms would shake, my brain would say, "Stop this hurts," and I would give up.  That would be it for a year or two, and then I'd get motivated to try again.  I figured that since I had run three marathons I could still turn in my weenie card and no one could judge me.

Then the other day after a workout I decided to try again.  I did 20 push ups.  Not girlie on your knee push ups (which are still hard, by the way), not push ups with terrible form and my butt sticking 5 feet in the air, but 20 perfect man-style push ups in a straight plank position in front of a mirror to keep me honest.  I was amazed.  I'd done a lot of arm work and planks in Barre class, but this was unprecedented territory for me.  I felt strong.  I felt empowered.  I felt an incredible connection with my body and my abilities.

For me, that's what being fit is about.  Sure, it's nice to fit in my clothes and be able to eat whoopie pies and sweet potato fries without tremendous guilt, but mostly being fit makes me feel ready.  If I have to carry a heavy box at work, I can probably find a way to handle it.  If my hypothetical child (or Clyde) wants to run 50 laps around the backyard for fun, I can keep up.  If the elevator goes out and I need to climb ten flights of stairs, I'll be fine.  If my lovely friend and ex-colleague invites me to a 90-minute yoga class, I know I won't die.  (Well, maybe of embarrassment, but not of exhaustion.)  To me, that's what fitness is about.  It's being prepared and being able to face each day with armor.  It doesn't mean that I won't fall or fail, but it will be that much easier for me to brush myself off and hop up again afterward.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


I'm a terrible stretcher.  I just never do it.  Before my workout I feel like it just takes up valuable time when I could be actually working out, and afterward I just want to be getting onto the next thing, whether that's a nice hot shower or the 18 errands I need to run.

As a runner I have super-tight hamstrings, and I seem to be plagued with tight hips as well.  That means that while I really should be stretching, if I actually do bother to stretch, it hurts a little bit.  It's uncomfortable.  And that is precisely why I don't like it.

Of course, stretching regularly would probably make me a better runner, a healthier person, and less likely to get injured.  It could help me relieve headaches, improve my posture, and get stronger.  It would also become much less uncomfortable for me if I did it on a regular basis.

Today I got to wondering what other areas of my life could use some stretching.  What things make me uncomfortable in the short term, but could make me a better person in the long run?  What am I missing in my hurry to get through my ever-expanding To Do list and onto the next thing?

I took a yoga class On Demand today.  My downward dogs were awful, but it was entertaining to see my own dog try to wiggle his way onto my mat and put his head on my stomach while I tried to turn myself into a human pretzel.

It might not have been a sweaty workout, but I stretched myself, which I guess is a step in the right direction.