Against the Tide

So, I worked out with Josh this morning, bright and early!  The change in my schedule has made it so that Phil and I can rarely work out at the same time.  Moreover, it has made it so I’m sometimes at the gym at 8 IN THE MORNING. That’s like school.

Anyway, so Josh had me start out with some TRX-band stretching.  Basically, holding on to these two bands and doing lunges or these weird arm-clock-rotations. It’s hard to explain. Point is, they weren’t super hard to do. But then we moved upstairs.

Josh picked up pairs of 15 and 20 pound dumbbells, and right then I thought–“Oh hell no. I never use weights that heavy! Phil usually uses 15 pounds.” So Josh said I was going to do “complexes.” More like I was going to “develop a complex” after doing this. He laid out six exercises for me, and told me I’d do ten (or twenty) reps of each, and we’d just cycle through them.  Okay. So the first exercise was a plank-row, meaning I’d get into the plank position, which one hand on the ground and one hand holding a dumbbell, and then pull the dumbbell up in a row-motion, ten times.  Then ten more with the other arm. Using a 15 pound weight.

After that, I’d do ten squats-to-presses. With 15 pound weights.  At this point, it became clear that this was too much weight. But being that… I don’t know, I am who I am, I guess? I couldn’t articulate that to Josh in any way other than dropping the weights on the ground and snapping, “These are too heavy!” So Josh got me some 8 or 10 pound weights.  But the rest of the workout was still super hard.

After the squat-to-presses, I’d lay with my shoulders on a yoga ball and feet on the ground, hips raised, and do ten chest presses. Still with the 15 pound weights. Then I did twenty reverse lunges with bicep curls (8-10 pound weights), ten single-leg rows while bent forward at the waist (8-10 pound weights), and then twenty Romanian deadlifts (also 8-10 pound weights).  Those are where you stand on one foot and slowly bend towards your toes, keeping your back straight.

And I went through the circuit four times.  I think Josh might have intended that I do five circuits, but maybe he could see that I was consistently on the verge of tears and that my legs were wobbling when I was done with the reverse lunges.

A note about the crying.  I knew I was getting emotional and getting outside of myself.  I kept telling myself, “This is not an emotional experience.  The question here is not why Josh is making you work out with weights that are too heavy; why he is ‘doing this’ to you.  The question is ‘Can I physically do this, or do I need a lower weight?’ And if you can’t, just tell Josh that.” I would get this ridiculous, huge, desperate, existential anguish like, “This is SO HARD! Why, God? WHY?!” while I was whimpering through the exercises. So, evidently I still have some work to do there…

After the “complexes,” Josh had me do a ten-minute interval run on the treadmill: one minute at a brisk walk, thirty seconds at a fast run, repeated. I honestly don’t know that I have ever sweat that much or been that red in the face at the end of a workout.

The showers in the ladies’ locker room at our gym have stalls (otherwise I wouldn’t shower there, being that I am essentially a never-nude) and as I was looking for one to use, I accidentally caught a glimpse of this lady, SITTING on the shower floor, NAKED. Really?! That is so gross! I cringe every time I walk in there without flip flops (which is every time). And you’re just going to hunker down with all your business right on the floor? Yuuuuuuck.

Try to keep your back straight!


Ready For Demolition

All right! The past two weeks we’ve been meeting with Josh on Mondays and Fridays, going through a routine of core and balance work and lifting. Josh has told us we should be doing cardio at least twice a week, but Phil and I had been a little… not so much doing that.

However! This Monday, after we went through our routine with Josh–which was super hard, by the way. Maybe I should explain it. We’ve begun working on something which is called Metabolic Density Training, which doesn’t build bulky muscles, but is rather a way to build endurance and also burn fat.  Josh gives us two exercises–say, a deep-swimmer press and step-ups onto an exercise bench–and we do six reps of each, alternating for twelve minutes.  So we’re basically doing as many sets as we can of each, within twelve minutes.  On Monday we did those two exercises for twelve minutes, and then moved onto lunges alternated with moving from a plank position into a push-up position (on a bosu ball), and also squats alternated with rows.  My hammies and gluts were so sore the rest of the week!

So after we went through that routine, Phil and I  did an interval spin, moving between an elevated heart rate and a more stable heart rate.  And then on Wednesday I went for a run! And then on Friday, we did a crazy, intense spin with Josh and then Phil and I swam! And here’s the thing about the swimming–it was so much better this time around.  Last year I remember never really feeling like I got comfortable in the water; always feeling like I was rushing; choking on water and having to stop.  But that first length I swam was beautiful–I didn’t stop, I didn’t panic, I didn’t get exhausted.  I breathed every three strokes.  Moreover, I didn’t have to rest for nearly as long as I used to–Phil and I swam nine laps in twenty minutes.  I still have to work on keeping my head and shoulders in alignment with my hips and legs, but hey.  I’m just glad I felt comfortable in the water for once.

We still haven’t found a race that’s the distance we want and within our price range.  We’ll keep looking, though! Also, our training is going to see a major shift because I got a new job, which will keep me in more of a nine-to-five schedule, while Phil works nights and Josh typically has clients all day.  But I am determined to forge ahead!

Out of the seat! Hard as you can!

Tripocalypse Now: Redux

Hello again! Welcome back.

Phil and I took pretty much the entire season off after the Hot Chocolate 15k.  Initially, I had injured my foot, so I couldn’t really exercise, and then it got cold, and then it got really cold, and then there was that huge snowstorm.  We went to the gym a few times, but mostly we just enjoyed our holidays and got kind of fat. I just weighed myself and–although I usually weigh myself first thing in the morning before I’ve eaten anything but after I’ve pooped–it looks like I’ve gained about eight pounds.  And lost a LOT of muscle.

I’ve been really eager to get back in the saddle, as they say, and start training for another triathlon.  Although THIS challenge has a twist: we’re going to complete an International Distance Triathlon this year. That means a one mile swim, a twenty five mile bike ride, and a six mile run. Zounds!

Today was our first session back with Josh. It took me right back to last year–the stupid gabby gabby trainer is still there, thinking she’s hilarious; and the slight-figured Asian dude who runs for like, EVER, evidently got a haircut.  So we did a lot of basic things like planks, high-knees, “exercise disguised as stretching” (callback!), some basic lifting, and we got on the track to do ten forward jumps followed by a one lap sprint (twice). A couple things. One: when we were running through the high-knees I could feel my gut jiggling and at first that really bummed me out. But then I remembered that the same thing happened last year and I was so happy when I could feel my body tone up and lean out. So I have that to look forward to! Blech. If I never use the phrase “gut jiggling” to describe myself again, it will be too soon.  Two: When we went from jumping to sprinting, my legs were like “Whaaaaaaat?! Oh HELL no.” That only lasted for the first few steps but it reminded me how much ground you can lose in just a few months. Third: Those planks were super hard.  Granted, we didn’t just do a one-minute plank. Instead, we would be up for five seconds, down for like, two, and then back up again. The effort it takes to hoist yourself back up again makes a huge difference.  I don’t know how many we did, but it felt like a hundred.

So we’re figuring out a schedule with Josh because all of our lives are super busy right now–for example, I’ll be trying to manage my job, my music booking internship, my two improv teams AND this training. Just thinking about it stresses me out. We’ll be meeting with Josh again on Monday, so you can expect another update! We’ll also be looking into which triathlon we’ll be entering, and I’ll be sure to post it once we decide.

Jump to stability! Make sure your feet are parallel!

I Feel Like Myself Again

Today I woke up feeling kind of down on myself.  Quite frankly, I’ve been going out a lot and kind of slacking off with my training.  So I was absolutely determined to go running today. The last time I went, which was a week ago, I ran two miles and my heart rate skyrocketed immediately, which is unusual, considering the improvement in my cardiovascular endurance.

Before I left the house, I looked myself and my zit that won’t quit in the mirror and said, “You are going to feel so much better after this run, no matter how well you do or don’t do.” And I was right! I did five miles and it felt fantastic!  Well, it felt fantastic once I got past the first mile.  That one was a bit of a doozie.  But after that I was air-drumming along with my music and crop-dusting high schoolers. I had to stop a couple of times for traffic lights, but whatevs.

Along my run I saw: a kitty cat curled up in a store window; two thrift stores; one pool hall’s marquee that read: “GO BEAR;” a sign that I thought said “Ghost Dogs,” but actually said “Lost Dogs;” two restaurants I now want to try; and some Dog the Bounty Hunter-types letting their German Shepherd run around without a leash.  Awesome.  Look, dog owners–you may think your dog is friendly, but if it does decide to go all Kujo on me, what am I supposed to do? Run faster?  Hope that there’s a climbable tree nearby and that my tree-climbing skills are what they used to be?

Anyway. I’ve never run five miles before.  I guess I felt like it should have been harder? That’s what she said.  But still, it is an accomplishment, and it means I am that much closer to being able to run the 15k.  Did I mention there is a chocolate fountain after the race? For which I am now officially registered?

Also, it’s Phil’s birthday today! Happy birthday, Phil!


So yesterday Phil and I met Josh at the gym for an introduction to what will become our resistance routine.  Our training for the 15k will involve at least three days of cardio a week [starting at about forty five minutes, working our way up to at least an hour of cardio] and two days of resistance and lifting.  I rocked my Devil’s Challenge t-shirt at the gym and people were like totally respecting me more.

I am definitely sore today.  We started out with planks, side planks, and explosive jumping, doing two sets of each.  Then we did these crazy things where you kneel at one end of a step bench, and bend over it so you’re holding on to the other end.  Then you straighten your legs, raising them out behind you. When I was doing them, the bench started to tip up and Josh had to hold it down.

We moved on to the cable machines, doing, I don’t know, forward rows? We’d take a step forward and push the weights from the side forward and toward the center.  We did two sets of those, coupled with two sets up push-ups.  Only I still can’t do proper push-ups, so I did this modified exercise Josh cooked up, which turned out to be pretty difficult in its own right.

After that, we did some lat pull-downs, and some single-leg rows using free weights.  Those are super hard, because we have to lean really far forward, raising one leg out behind us as high as we can, and then do a row, pulling the weights up towards our chests.

To finish up, Josh had us do a squat assessment, to sort of check out the muscles in our legs.  Turns out both Phil and I are very tight in our outer calves and quads, and we have to make sure to focus on stretching those muscles out because that will be very important as we continue on.

And then we were done!  I begin running on Monday.  Did I mention that there is a chocolate fountain at the end of the race?

Remember to keep those glutes tight when you’re coming back up!

I’m Not Done

That’s right.  Anyone who thought, “Wow, I’m really happy that Liz finished her triathlon, but I wish she would keep writing blog posts so that I could keep reading about how she cries during training,” you just got your wish.  Josh, Phil and I will be registering for the Hot Chocolate 15k, which will take place on Saturday, November 6th in Grant Park.

We have about five weeks to train, and our regimen will involve a lot of cardio and lifting.  This is a nine mile run, and the most I’ve ever run is four.  But, unlike my feelings at the beginning of our triathlon training, I have absolutely no doubt that I can do this.  Just gotta get out there and start running!


We drove up to Baraboo on Saturday afternoon and pulled into the parking lot of the Willowood Inn, which is the ADORABLE motel I picked out for us. We stayed in the “Wildlife Room,” in which every opportunity for an adornment or an embellishment was taken–the shower curtain rings were little bears hugging pine trees; the walls were covered with owls and wolves and moose and bears.  And you could rent VHS tapes for a buck! AND they had lawn games! Anyway, we’re not supposed to be talking about our accommodations, we’re supposed to be talking about the race!

So we went to bed around eight thirty, but I couldn’t sleep for a long time because I was hella nervous.  We got up at five thirty, had some breakfast, and headed out in the dark for Devil’s Lake State Park.  Upon our check-in we were given Devil’s Challenge Triathlon t-shirts, plastic coffee mugs, our numbers [I was 676], and our ankle strap-timers.  We put the tires on our bikes and took little ride-arounds to make sure everything was in working order, and then got our bodies marked.  I got a big “676” on my left arm [it’s still there, faintly] and a “3” on my left calf to denote my wave–Novice Females.  After that we set up our stuff in the transition area and put on our wetsuits. Gosh, I’m getting all nervous and tingly just writing about it.

Phil was in Wave 2, so he was the first of us to start.  After him, my wave went in, and Josh was in Wave 5.  When the whistle blew for me to start, I ran into the [surprisingly warm] lake along with all the other Novice Females. We had to run or swim out to this big blow-up yellow pyramid buoy, swim around it to the left, then continue straight across to the other yellow pyramid, then take another left to shore.  I’m not sure why–maybe because I was nervous and there were all these other people swimming around me–but I pretty much backstroked and sidestroked the whole swim.  At one point around the middle I accidentally was backstroking like, straight to shore, and had to get back in with the pack.  I kept reminding myself of what Josh told me right before the race started: “Don’t get outside yourself.” So I just calmed down and got through it. Swim time: 13:31.

I ran out of the lake, taking off my goggles and swim cap as I went.  I didn’t think to start taking off my wetsuit until I got to my transition area. I didn’t dry off at all, I just put on my shirt, pants, socks, shoes, and helmet.  I took a couple bites of a Clif bar and a couple gulps of water, then grabbed my bike and ran it out of the area. T1 time: 5:29.

About three miles into the bike I passed Phil walking with his bike in the opposite direction.  He had gotten a flat. Such a colossal bummer! In the couple seconds it took to pass him he just told me to keep going, so I did. And we had driven the bike course the day before, so I knew it was hilly, but damn.  That shit was hard, y’all.  Allow me to repeat myself: that shit was hard, y’all. Some people were walking their bikes on the first hill.  Not me! If I wasn’t trudging uphill for minutes and minutes at a time, I was hurtling downhill at terrifying speeds.  And did I mention it rained?  So I was slowly making my way up these unbelievably long and steep hills in the rain and then speeding down them on slick roads. My fingers and toes were like little blocks of ice.  I would try to downshift but my fingers were so weak that I wouldn’t be able to and I’d wind up taking a hill in third gear.  The countryside was beautiful, though. And at one point we passed horsies!  There was a line of about five beautiful dark brown horses just watching us all go by and I called out, “Hi, horsies!” right when some dude zipped past me. The bike course ended with one last huge hill and then a winding downhill path back into the park.  Bike time: 1:17:29.

I ran my bike back into the transition area and immediately blew my nose.  I heard Phil say, “Say cheese, boo!” and I looked over to see him taking a video with his phone.  I fixed my ponytail ONCE to fit it through the back of my Old Capital Brew Works baseball cap, took a bite of a fun size Snickers, had one or two more gulps of water, then took off on the run. T2 time: 2:34.

I felt pretty good on the run, actually. Obviously I was tired, but I knew how my legs were going to feel getting off the bike, and I knew I could get it done.  The run course was a little hilly–we ran out of the park and over into a campground, where we did a big uphill loop and then turned around and came back down and out.  The hill was challenging, but still, the thoughts I did have that took the form of words were all positive. On the way out of the campground I passed a sign that indicated that I was on the last mile of the run.  I planned to pick up my pace but about a third of the way through that last mile I was struck with what might have been the worst side cramp I have ever had.  My whole torso spasmed and I almost doubled over.  I tried to keep running and rubbing my side but it hurt so much.  I walked for a bit, and a runner passed me, saying something like, “Come on, you’re almost done, you can finish.”  I started to jog again and looked up and saw Josh coming towards me with a water bottle.  I started to cry a little bit, and he told me if I needed to walk, I could walk. But I took a drink of water and it’s like the cramp just went away.  We picked up the pace for the last two hundred feet of the race, and I finished! Run time: 31:55.

So I finished 39th out of 69th in my division, and 475th out of 549 overall.  I always have a hard time feeling proud of myself–I feel like I have to qualify my accomplishments; temper them or lessen them or think of how I could have done better. But for now I’m trying hard to drive the point home to myself that I could not have done this six months ago.  I could not have done this EVER in my life before now. I finished a triathlon–I am now a triathlete.  And you know who else was a triathlete?  GI Jane.