Archive for June, 2010

Quiet Dog Bite Hard

Now, I understand that this title is a little…obscure?  The point I’m getting at, though, is that today’s workout felt like it came out of nowhere just to kick my ass.

Phil and I met Josh at the gym, and we immediately began doing balance and core work.  Our balance work was challenging, doing single-leg squat toe touches and these other single-leg moves where you lean forward and basically look like one of those drinky-birds.  It might not sound difficult, but once you’re getting up near fifteen on one leg, you are feelin it in your hamstring and hip.

Our core work consisted of ball crunches, plank variations [oh my god], and what Josh calls “V-ups.”  Josh demonstrated them for us first, of course making them look super easy.  Okay, these things are torture.  You lie on your back, with your arms above your head and a yoga ball between your calves.  Then you lift your legs and your arms, making your body into a V-shape, in order to grab the ball from between your legs and bring it back down to the ground over your head.  Repeat.  We did two sets of the planks, ball crunches and V-ups, and by the very end I just could not lift my legs off the ground–my core was spent.  Meltdown, if you will.

After that, we did a really intense ten minute spin.  Josh worked some hills in there, and at certain points it was just grueling.  I resorted to just pushing the weight of my body down on each leg in order to keep pedaling.

After that, we did a mile run broken into quarters: every quarter began by taking the stairs up to the track in wide-legged squat steps; after the first three laps we came downstairs and did ten push-ups; after the second three laps we did ball squats; after the third three we did free-weight rows [with Josh providing some extra resistance]; and then we finished up with three strong laps.

Now, I’m not going to say that I didn’t get a little panicky and emotional during the V-ups, or the spinning, or the run.  But as I felt myself losing control, I tried to change my perspective from one of panic and despair to one of determination and resolve: “You can absolutely do this.  Do not accept less from yourself.”  And, at least during the spin, it worked!

That being said, I have been waiting for the perfect training session to post this clip.  None of them have seemed quite painful enough.  But congratulations, June Twenty-Eighth–you take the cake!

Keep those legs pumping!  Keep that hand on that hip!


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Baby, Baby, Breakdown

Well.  It’s that time again–time for me to cry in excess of two times during training!  I feel like I should figure out some way to put a banner above these posts that come along about once a month: “PMS POST! PERIOD POST!”  It would at least make the whole thing more festive.

Anyway, I was actually feeling pretty positive when I got to the gym yesterday.  I’d had peanut butter toast and half a grapefruit before leaving the house, and I got to the gym early enough for me and Josh to take some measurements so that in the future I can see my progress in actual inches.  Then, the dominoes began to tumble.  First, I stepped on a scale, which informed me that I had not, in fact, lost eight pounds; I had lost four.  [Since then, I’ve weighed myself twice, and the scale did say I’d lost as much as nine pounds, so I don’t know what that was about. Pre-menstrual bloating, I suppose. Oh, YOU LOVE IT.]  So that was discouraging.  Also, the only bases of comparison I had for the measurements Josh took were my measurements in high school.  Needless to say, I’ve grown since then.

Our workout began with some really intense plank-variations, in which we’d hold one foot just off the ground, then out to the side, then bend our knee to bring it up to our side, then cross our knee under our bodies.  I was getting super sweaty and so my forearms were sliding forward and my toes were losing their traction, and I was also just having a harder and harder time holding the position, all of which added up to a lot of panicked near-tears whimpering from me. Josh told me to try and keep my hips down and I whined back, “I’M TRYING!”  We added some ball crunches and bridges to our core work, and then moved onto ladder drills.

Josh laid a mesh-rope ladder on the ground and said we’d do four circuits of three drills [high knees, then hopping in and out of the ladder steps, then quickly stepping in and out from the side], while the other person laid on a yoga ball doing a sort of mock-freestyle stroke using a resistance band that Josh would hold.  And then we would switch.  I’m not sure if that’s exactly clear, but I’ll tell you right now that it was really hard, and I cried afterwards.  These hormones!  They’ve taken over my emotions!  My emotions are the American hostages of my Iranian hormones.  [Too soon?]  I also accidentally spittled on the yoga ball.

After I collected myself in the locker room, we got in the pool.  Josh wanted us to try swimming using bilateral breathing, which means you turn your head to breathe every three strokes, thereby alternating the side on which you breathe.  Previously, I had been practicing breathing exclusively on my left side, not wanting to put the cart before the horse, so to speak.  I figured my stroke needed enough work as it was, without throwing in some fancy breathing technique.  Anyway, Phil and I were sharing the lane, and at one point we passed each other and I caught a hand or elbow to the chin, and the waterworks started all over again.  God, how embarrassing.  I mean, it did hurt, but I probably didn’t need to cry about it!  I made it to the end of the pool, but on my way back I started to get tired and my stroke fell apart, and I started breathing in water, and then I just stood up and kind of lost it.  I was trying to catch my breath while also trying to stop myself from sobbing out loud.  Seriously, I’m embarrassed to even be writing this.

Again, I tried to collect myself and keep swimming.  Which I did, without any more crying.  But jeezy petes, that was one traumatic session.  Honestly, how do they do it?  Female athletes, that is.  I know how G.I. Jane did it–she lost so much body fat that she stopped having a period.  But what about Rebecca Lobo, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Gertrude Ederle?  Teach me, great ones!  According to my rowing-superstar sister, I will get better at compartmentalizing my emotions and hopefully not letting them get the best of me.

Now suck it up and get ready for the pool!

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Take It To The Limit

First: a milestone.  Remember how Josh told me I’d have to get to a point where I could run for thirty minutes without stopping?  Well, Sunday afternoon I went to the gym and I did it! After some stretching, I got on a treadmill, set an incline of 2 [arbitrary units, so far as I can tell, but Josh has told us to always use an incline when running on a treadmill], a pace of 5.6 mph, and started running.  The first ten minutes were the hardest–that was the only time I thought about stopping.  But as I got closer to twenty minutes, I figured I would just keep going.  So ultimately, I ran 2.79 miles in thirty minutes.  I ran farther and for longer than I ever have in my entire life.  …And then I bought onion dip on the way home.  Sue me!  Have you ever walked around a Jewel when you’re hungry?  Its siren song rivals even the Potbelly’s meatball sub–and I’ve crashed my boat on that baby’s rocks more times than I care to mention.

So today, Phil and I met up with Josh, who had a meeting in an hour, so our workout was no-nonsense action-packed.  We did a fifteen minute tempo-spin–we weren’t doing any crazy sprints or hills or Tabata.  Then moved on to some balance work, tossing a medicine ball to each other.  After that, we did a lot of weight training, focusing almost exclusively on our upper bodies.  We did lat pull-downs, seated bench presses, shoulder presses, rows, curls, crazy things that worked our pecs and rear delts, etc.  My upper body strength leaves something to be desired, so I struggled a bit with the machines. We also took a break in between machine circuits for a ten minute run, which I found kind of difficult, maybe because I was tired, or because those first ten minutes of running are always the hardest for me.

At any rate, my entire upper body is fixing to be sore tomorrow!

One more thing:  Phil and I did some further research into the Devil’s Challenge [why we didn’t do this three months ago is beyond me] and apparently it not only got its name from Devil’s Lake, but also for being a super hard triathlon.  The lake is supposedly freezing, the bike is incredibly hilly, as is the run.  One lady who wrote a review said she almost puked on the bike because she’d eaten half a Clif bar before the race.  What’s going to happen to me if I have my Cheerios with bananas and blueberries?  Gulp!

Keep up with me!  Get it up!

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Bring The Pain

HOLY TOLEDO! Am I sore or what?!

The answer is, I am indeed very, very sore. Yesterday Phil and I met up with Josh for about forty minutes of maybe the hardest workout we’ve ever done.  Allow me to introduce you to “Tabata Protocol.”  This is a type of workout which basically consists of eight intervals of twenty seconds at maximum exertion, followed by ten seconds of rest.  That doesn’t sound too crazy, right?

Well, first we tried it on the spin bikes.  I am telling you, those twenty seconds feel like forever.  And it seems like as soon as we start resting, Josh is saying, “Three, two, one…”  We only spent about four minutes on the bike, but it felt like twenty.  After that, we moved into the personal trainer room, which is where people are… personally trained, I guess.  There are a lot of dumbbells and airex pads [very reactive; good for balance work] and a row machine.  So after we did some single-legged toe touches holding a medicine ball, and some lateral hopping over a bosu ball,  it was time for more Tabata.

This time, Phil and I were going to go through a circuit of bicep curls with our backs against the wall [prevents shoulder-rocking, thereby isolating the bicep muscle as well as making it exceptionally difficult], box hops [bent over alongside a step bench, hands braced on one end, while hopping over the bench from side to side], and rows [pulling our own body weight toward the machine, as opposed to pulling weight toward our bodies].  Doing Tabata for just one of those exercises would have been tough, but going from one to another eight times over? And my face! I honestly don’t know how Josh and Phil don’t just laugh at my expression sometimes.  It contorts itself into a mask of pain mixed with panic and self-pity–add that to the fact that I’m all sweaty and flushed and I make one pretty picture.  But ultimately, we did twelve minutes of high intensity exertion with essentially no stopping, and no tears were shed.

Then, Josh asked us to swim half a mile in the pool. And we tried. The pool at the gym is 25m, so a half mile would be sixteen laps.  Phil and I did ten in about forty minutes.  Then we called it a day.  On the plus side, I was able to go almost every length without stopping.  I still had to rest between lengths, but my recovery time is decreasing.  Furthermore, ten laps is about a third of a mile.  So we did swim a distance greater than what will be in the race, albeit in a pool, stopping between lengths.  Also, sidenote: there was this super creepy guy who jumped into the pool and jogged a length, staring all squinty-eyed at everyone, and then just hung out at one end with only his head out of the water, all creepy and predatory.  That definitely encouraged me to swim faster!

If you have time to wipe your face with a towel, you’re not pedaling hard enough!

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The Holy Hour

…That title is a stretch, considering it’s not even really a song, it’s a twenty second interlude by The Cure, and I don’t even really listen to The Cure, but it had the word “hour” in it and our workout today was an hour, so hey.

I didn’t write a second post last week because our Wednesday workout was pretty standard–not overly challenging, but I also didn’t feel like I broke any barriers I’d previously set.  Then on Sunday I did a little mini-workout at home, doing a few scaptions and push-ups, and then 1.75 mi on the treadmill.  Lordy, was I sweaty when that was done!  Chicago’s been like a rainforest these past few days.

So today Phil and I met with Josh for the first time in a week, for what would turn out to be a fairly short but definitely intense workout.  We got ourselves all stretched out and then did fifteen minutes of spinning at a fast, hard pace.  The problem with those spin bikes is that they’re so uncomfortable!  Whenever we start to pedal quickly, I’m bouncing all over the seat, my ponytail flipping all over the place, and the seat itself hurts my crotch.  There, I said it.

After the spinning we moved into the big aerobics room for some core work and plyometrics–we were jumping onto and off this little lion-tamer-type stool, then incorporated the aerobic step bench–which was all in all, tough but also kind of fun.  When we were done with that, we moved upstairs for some running and lifting.  This turned out to be the hardest part of the workout for me.  The plan was to run three laps at our mile pace, stop and do push-ups, run three more laps, stop and do rows, run three more laps, stop and do dumbbell presses, and then finish up with three more laps, thereby running a mile total.  And, as it turns out, making me almost cry.

First of all, though I have been trying to do push-ups every day, I still have to keep my knees down, otherwise I can’t really achieve any range of motion with any hopes of pushing myself back up.  So when I tried to do push-ups today with my knees up, I practically collapsed.  Secondly, when I was doing the presses, Josh told me I would do twelve, and when I got to ten, he said, “Okay, give me five more.”  That’s when I kind of whimpered and felt like I was going to start crying.  But I did not cry.  I finished out my mile, clocking in around 9:58, including the times I stopped to lift.

Pretty soon, I need to be able to run at a good pace for thirty minutes without stopping.  And I probably need to be able to do some real push-ups, too.

What I can take away from today is that, over the course of the training so far, my expectations of myself have shifted.  For example, I will absolutely not stop running to walk.  [Although I can’t say the thought doesn’t cross my mind every time I’m on the opposite side of the track from Josh.]  I am accepting fewer and fewer excuses from myself, challenging myself more, pushing myself harder.  I am making progress, but it is also clear that I still have a long way to go.


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Whip It Good

Well!  Today may have marked a minor milestone in our training thus far.  I believe this is the first day that our workout has incorporated [in one way or another] all three triathlon events.  And shit was hard!

Both Phil and I rode to the gym today, thereby getting warmed up but also getting a bike ride in.  Josh has a workshop this week, so the two of us were on our own with a sheet of instructions to follow, and we started with the usual core and balance work, then moved upstairs for resistance training.  Phil and I did a circuit of single-leg rows on a cable machine, ball squats combined with dumbbell presses, and single-leg scaptions using weights [a scaption is where you raise your arms up and out in front of you into a Y shape, and they’re super hard].  After that, which was actually pretty tough, we did ten lunges, holding dumbbells and bringing them up into a press, followed by four laps [don’t forget! Only a 1/12 mile track!] at our “mile pace.” My mile pace is :42/lap, and Phil’s is :36.  We did three sets of the lunges followed by laps.  Now, neither of us is in possession of a stopwatch, and when I’m running I’m usually thinking either “When can I fart so I’m not crop dusting anyone except those soccer dudes who are taking up the entire track walking three abreast?” or “Don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry,” so we just tried to keep up a strong pace on our laps.  Which was a challenge.  After every set of laps I had to double over [under the guise of bending over to pick up the weights] and gasp in deep breaths before doing more lunges.

So yeah, that was pretty challenging.  But we did it! And then we had to do twenty minutes of swimming, making sure to keep track of how many laps we swam.  Ultimately, I swam seven and Phil swam eight.  Now, I think I was able to do a couple lengths without stopping, but most of the time I stopped once or twice to spit out water or because I got so tired that I forgot when to breathe in or out and wound up swallowing water.

When we left the gym I was reminded of one of Josh’s predictions: “Just wait until you bike to the gym, work out, AND do swimming.  When you get back on your bike you’ll be like, ‘I have no energy!'” And it’s true.  I was whooped.

Pick it up! You’re going to feel like you’re dying but you’ll be fine!

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First, an addendum to the previous post: the gravity of a temper tantrum is seriously undermined when the wallet one throws onto a bench in a fit of dismay over forgetting one’s socks is in fact a plastic coin purse bearing the image of a bear in a hat saying, “GO WITH THE FLOW!” while riding down a river in a canoe that reads, “Happy-Go-Lucky.”

This morning I woke up determined to give this workout my all, sick or not.  I turned out to be the former, with a scratchy throat and a stuffy nose.  I made it to the gym on time, and Phil and I began to stretch out.  Josh had us perform a fitness test in which we tried to go from plank position to push-up position as many times as we could in fifteen seconds.  During that test, I realized either how run down my cold had made me, or how little upper body strength I’ve really gained.  My maximum was right about ten, while Phil went up to somewhere like thirteen or fourteen?  So I pouted a little after that, and allowed my bad feelings to linger in my head longer than they needed to.

Josh told us we were going to do a timed mile upstairs on the track, but we were first going to to a “dynamic warm-up.”  This entailed moving quickly from high-knees to butt-kicks to jump squats to lunges to lunges-to-twists to jumping jacks [I don’t think I’m leaving anything out…] so that definitely got our blood pumping!

I was still kind of sour when we moved upstairs–I really should not work out when I’m on my period.  Seriously, I just get really down on myself and want to cry at every turn.  Which I sort of did during the mile run.  I don’t know, Phil lapped me at one point [okay, he lapped me twice, but it’s only a 1/12 mile track!] and I started to let my breathing get out of control.  Frankly, I think I was just feeling sorry for myself because I didn’t meet my own unrealistic expectations that I would be just as strong or as fast as Phil.  I am only in competition with myself, I have to remember that.  He’s a dude!

Anyway, when I finished Josh told me my mile time–8:09! I have never run an eight minute mile in my LIFE, much less a mile in fewer than ten minutes.  Liz proud!

Still glowing from my achievement, I followed Josh and Phil downstairs to use the rowing machine.  We did three sets of rowing 250m as quickly as we could, which turned out to be right around a minute for both of us.  Those were actually pretty exhausting, so little sis gets mad props for rowing four hours a day.

We cooled down with fifteen minutes at an easy pace on the spin bikes, with the promise to meet on Friday for a swim.  I have a super lame new red swim cap to clash with my green swim suit–holla!  Christmas in June!

Keep it up!  Keep that navel sucked in!

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