Archive for July, 2010

Fast As You Can

We have another milestone!  I almost wrote “milestrone,” evidently because I am so used to writing “minestrone.”  Yum, minestrone…

Anyway, yesterday Phil, Josh, and I started with a fifteen minute tempo spin, trying to keep a constant, strong heart rate.  While we were spinning, the dude who whistled at me came in and took like four feet of paper towel from the machine, still wearing that stupid Jewel bag under his shirt.  I swear, I think that guy lives at Bally’s because nine times out of ten, when we’re there, he is there.

After spinning, we did some balance and resistance training that was pretty tough.  We did single-leg medicine ball reaches, ball crunches, planks, box jumps [jumping from a squat onto the little tion tamer platform, then back off into a squat], shoulder touches, squat-rows, and these exercises where you hold the little medicine ball with a handle between your legs and swing it forward and up above your head, going up onto your toes.  They kind of throw off your balance, so you need to work hard to stay up on your toes and not tip over.

We moved on to the weight machines, where Jewel bag guy was always either using the machines we wanted to use, or using the one adjacent to it.  We did chest presses, leg presses, shoulder presses, leg extensions, bicep curls, and squats.  Moreover, all of our lifting was tempo lifting which means you lift, hold for a two count, and then slowly let the weights down for a four count.  So that makes any of the machines much more difficult. And it makes me even more self-conscious during the shoulder presses because I hadn’t shaved my pits.

Then Josh said, “We’ll go upstairs and stretch out, then do a timed mile.”  Okay, this “stretching out”?  The most strenuous stretching I’ve ever done.  You start out standing, then bend down and walk your hands out into a push-up position, then hoist one leg up so the foot is on the ground on the outside of your hand.  Then you bend that arm so your elbow is lowered, THEN you straighten out the forward leg to stretch it out, then you basically go backward through the steps and walk yourself back to standing.  Repeat like ten times.  I exasperatedly said mid-stretch, “This is exercise disguised as stretching!”

And now for the milestone!  Josh wanted me to try and keep my mile under nine minutes, and told Phil he believed Phil could get under seven.  So we took off, with Phil immediately a little bit ahead of me.  I reminded myself that his mile was inevitably going to be faster than mine, and that I could totally do this.  And for the most part, I kept that positive attitude.  I tried to distract myself by trying to recall all the foods we’d tasted at work the day before, but I could only remember bacon-wrapped dates, the mushroom and rice croqueta, and the seafood paella.

My left calf was still bothering me, and towards the last two laps my pace really started to catch up with me and I started to get a little fatigued and winded.  Josh ran the last two laps with me, so of course I took that opportunity to ask why he always does timed runs when I’m on my period.  Wow, Liz, your gratitude and grace are really overwhelming sometimes.  But anyway, I really chugged out the last lap and Josh told me my mile time: 7:47!

I can now run a mile in under eight minutes! Also, Phil’s time was 6:26!  My boyfriend can practically run a six minute mile!  We’re really on our way!

I haven’t been keeping track of your cycle!


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Okay, I meant to write this post earlier and make it longer, but I just got home from a nine and a half hour training shift for my new job, so I’m a little pooped.

On Monday, Josh ran us through essentially a mock-triathlon at the gym.  As soon as we got there, we got in the pool and did a ten or twelve minute swim, I can’t remember which.  Either way, we tried to swim as many laps as we could, taking as few rests as possible.  Some of my laps were pretty strong, but others were kind of pathetic excuses for swimming.  Phil and I each swam five laps, while I think Josh swam eight to ten.

We jumped out of the pool and changed as quickly as we could before hitting the spin bikes.  This quick-change of course meant that I had to grapple with putting on my sports bra and workout pants when I was still kind of wet from the pool, which is always awkward and frustrating.  BUT I was the first one out of the locker rooms!  Our spin was a Tabata spin, so it only lasted four minutes, but it was very high intensity.

After our spin, we moved right upstairs for a twenty minute run.  Josh told me to try and keep my heart rate around 172, and for the most part I was at about 175.  And I actually felt good for the whole run! No panicking, no gasping, and certainly no crying.  I’m not sure how far I ran, but Josh lapped me about…four times, and he said he probably did at least two and a half miles.  So maybe I did about two miles.  I had come into the gym on Sunday and tried to do a run, but not only did I get this huge cramp on my right side, my left calf was also in some moderate to serious pain. [I wound up doing a spin that day instead.]  And my calf was bothering me again on Monday, but not as badly. Run through the pain!  No, actually, I think that’s like really bad advice.

But the whole thing felt really good!  I know it wasn’t the same experience as the race itself is going to be, but it was a nice introduction to transitioning between events, both physically and wardrobe-wise.  It’s really got me thinking about my Race Day Ensemble…


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Okay, so that didn’t go as well as I had allowed myself to hope it might.

I’m not trying to make excuses, but I had this horrible, fitful, frantic night’s sleep last night, varying between being really sweaty and really cold, all the while having super mundane work dreams.  But when I got up, I tried to remain positive, having half a grapefruit and peanut butter toast.

So before the test, Phil and I stretched out and did some basic core and balance work, followed by a quick warm-up of jumping jacks, high-knees, and butt-kicks.  I was getting more and more nervous, thinking about how long it had been since I had run, listening to Josh say that a lot of athletes fail this test and that it is really hard.

And it turns out I was wrong about the pacing of the test.  I had thought the first ten minutes are sort of a warm up–building up a pace, but starting off somewhat easily.  The previous times I’ve run for a half hour, it’s been at 5.6mph or 5.8mph.  And I have only ever run for half an hour three times in my life. Anyway, Josh wanted me to start at like 6.2mph, which was a terrifying prospect.  So he relented and let me start at 5.8mph.

During those first ten minutes, my body was like Will Smith in any movie he’s ever been in: “Oh, hell no.”  And I think that’s where I really started to lose focus and frankly, hope.  I began to panic almost immediately after increasing the speed to start the twenty-minute portion of the test.  I couldn’t get control of my breathing and I kept thinking about how I was going to have to keep up this pace for twenty more minutes, when I felt like I couldn’t run for another five. And I just kept saying, “I can’t do this, I’m not going to finish.”

So somewhere around fifteen minutes [out of thirty, not twenty] I smacked the red STOP button.  For the first time.

Right away, Josh turned the treadmill back on, building up to a jogging pace.  I was in the middle of a meltdown, so I said, “You’re not going to trick me and get my pace back up to where it was before!”  Which sounds ridiculous now, but I was completely serious.  I thought Josh was just going to keep boop-booping up the pace until we were back at 6.3mph and then just shrug at me.  He didn’t do that, but he did bring the pace up to about 5.8mph.  I tried focusing on whatever was happening on ESPN and CNN, tried taking really deep breaths.  I would gasp out things like, “I feel like I’m going to collapse, I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack, I have chills running up and down my arms, ooh Tim Lincecum!”  After a couple more minutes, I hit the STOP button again, saying “Fuck!’ and turning the treadmill back on.  I went for another thirty seconds and hit STOP again! I was practically crying at that point, really disappointed in myself but also completely destroyed by the exertion.

We turned the treadmill back on and put me at 5.5mph, and I think by that point we had like, ten minutes left in the test.  I tried to get myself more positive, thinking I knew I could do this, I had done it before, I was down to the last ten minutes, thanks to all of my STOP-ping.

While all of this was happening, by the way, while I was going through the five stages of grief, looking like Munch’s “The Scream,”  Phil was chugging along at 6.9mph.  He was able to finish the test because, well… Phil is a fantastic athlete.  I was really proud of him!

But back to me. As we were drawing towards the end of those ten minutes, Josh said, “Okay Liz, I want you to bring it up to 6.3mph for the last minute,” and I said “Fuck you. You’re kidding.”  But I did it.

So, I can’t help but be disappointed in myself, and think if I had just focused more on running on my own time, if I had just been able to get a grip on my attitude, if I had just refused to hit the STOP button, I could have completed the test.  But I’ve also got to say, “Hey, this is the fourth time in my entire life that I have run for thirty minutes, and the entire time I was trying to run faster and harder than I ever have.  And I didn’t quit.  Yes, I stopped, but I didn’t get off the treadmill and try to drown myself in the pool.” I think I have a hard time allowing myself to be proud of things.  Like, if our workout is really hard, I get down on myself for not being able to perform like I want to; if our workout doesn’t completely kick my ass, I start thinking I should have been trying harder or challenging myself more.

So, I just have to focus even more on my running, and get ready for the next time we do this test, which will be in about a month.

You think Tim Lincecum’s hot?  I think he’s weird-looking.  But he can throw the hell out of a baseball!

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Things That Scare Me

Tomorrow Phil and I will be doing our lactic threshold test, and I am pretty terrified.  Just a heads up, this test measures physiological markers [like blood lactate] to determine a person’s heart rate at their “lactate threshold.”  This threshold is the point at which the body stops metabolizing fat and begins metabolizing sugar, which is an inefficient fuel.  So a person can exercise for a long time below their lactate threshold before fatiguing, but only for a short time above the lactate threshold. Basically, this test determines how “fit” you are.

I’m not positive how long the test is, but my impression is that we will run at a sort of build-up pace for ten or fifteen minutes, and then move up to a stronger, harder pace for the next twenty minutes.  And judging by how I felt on my last run, well…

And I know the test will be hard–it’s supposed to be hard.  But I suppose I’m just very nervous that I’ll start to cry or whine about how I want to give up or, worst case scenario, actually give up.

So obviously I’ll write a post about how it all goes, assuming that I survive.

By the way, I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I work almost every night and I make very little time to go grocery shopping, and so I’ve decided to start keeping some frozen dinners on hand for nights when I don’t want another sandwich or chicken and rice taco.  So far I’ve tried the Healthy Choice grilled basil chicken and the Lean Cuisine four-cheese stuffed rigatoni.  The Healthy Choice was pretty “meh,” but that Lean Cuisine?  Put some ground black pepper and crushed red pepper on that shiz and it is delicious.  And it has a bunch of protein and fiber!

See you next time!

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Back In The Saddle

This title is doubly clever as it is a direct line from Josh during our spin session yesterday, but it serves a figurative purpose, referring to my own feelings of renewal and confidence during and after our workout.  There I go again, using that English degree.

So we met with Josh, who asked us, “Do you guys smell that?  It smells like Tabata.”  My gut kind of dropped at that point.  But first, we started off with a circuit of planks, ball crunches, and jack knives.  Did I explain what those were last time?  You have your arms in a push-up position, and your shins up on a yoga ball.  Then you raise your hips up as you draw your knees forward, toward your chest, and then extend your body back out again.  They are great for your core, and are also tricky when it comes to balancing.   We also did a Shark Skill Test, which uses a tic-tac-toe pattern on the ground, and you see how quickly you can hop on one foot in and out of every square, starting in the center, moving left to right through them all, returning to the center after each one.  It assesses lower extremity agility and neuromuscular control!

We moved into the spin studio and did a fifteen minute spin that was definitely challenging, but not make-me-cry impossible.  At a couple points during the spin, Josh told us to go as hard as we could for twenty seconds, and I hopefully asked, “Was that the Tabata?” No.  It was not.

After our spin we moved back into the Personal Trainer room where two other personal trainers were working out on their own.  One of them is this guy, who shall remain nameless, who’s achieved this kind of mythology in my mind, based on what I’ve heard about him.  Whenever we see him around the gym I think, “That’s so-and-so.  He has more clients than anyone.  He offered some to Josh because he couldn’t see them all himself;” “He has a plaque on the office wall because he won Personal Trainer of the Year;” “He’s ‘a really cool guy,’ according to Josh.”  Anyway, he and the other personal trainer were doing some of the things Phil and I have done with Josh, so it looks like Josh knows what he’s doing!

Anyway, back to the Tabata.  Our circuit consisted of medicine ball slams [slamming the medicine ball onto the ground as hard as you can, over and over], rows using our body weight as resistance, and these single-leg jumps on the little lion tamer pedestal.  So, as you may remember, we do twenty seconds as hard as we can on each one, with a ten second rest in between, ultimately doing eight sets of each.  What was different this time, though, was that I wasn’t dreading Josh counting “Three, two, one…” at the end of the ten second break.  Instead, every time I felt like I couldn’t do any more, that was right when Josh would be counting down the end of the twenty seconds of activity.  You see the difference?  I’m not sure I do.  Basically, I was always ready to start the next set, instead of feeling fatigued from the get-go.  What was the same this time, though, is that my biceps are utterly sore today.

After the Tabata we parted ways and Phil and I did a fifteen minute swim, trying to complete as many laps as we could.  We each did six and a half laps.  In the lane next to us was a girl who clearly knew what she was doing, and Phil said she and I were swimming the same speed!  That is, until I did my usual stop-cough-start again routine. The Trainer of the Gods was in the pool with us, too, and Phil was totally swimming as fast as him.  Go us!

Josh: Keep it up!

Phil, mid-jump: That’s what she said.

Josh:  Hahaha.  If you have time to make jokes, you’re not jumping hard enough!

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Ready For The Floor

Goodness.  I think I needed a day’s rest before writing about Sunday’s workout.

Phil and I had conflicting schedules, so we each met with Josh separately.  I headed down to the gym after improv class, thinking that, although I had taken a couple days without working out, I would be in fine condition for whatever Josh had in store.  I’m not saying that the days off had a direct impact but wow, I was completely wrong.

We started out with eight minutes on Jacob’s Ladder.  For those of you not familiar with this medieval torture device, it is about as frightening as I’ve heard the film is.  No, I’ve never seen it.  Yes, I’ve heard it’s great. Yes, I know Tim Robbins is in it.  Yes, I think it’s in my queue.  Anyway, this machine is like a ladder-escalator, with wooden rungs that you climb up while you are tethered by your waist.  Eight minutes on that felt like twenty–it’s a very slow and deliberate exercise, so you can’t really zone out or think about anything other than making sure your feet meet the rungs.

We moved on to a circuit of core and upper body work that made me want to kill myself and also made me snap at Josh.  After some quick balance exercises, I did a circuit of spider-men [starting in push-up position and moving your right foot up as close to your right hand as possible, returning to position, then following with the left], shoulder touches [push-up position, touching left hand to right shoulder and vice versa], and toe touches [starting in push-up position and reaching underneath my body, trying to touch my right foot with left hand and vice versa], while mixing in some planks, seated bosu balances, and ball crunches.  Josh told me to try and keep my hips from swaying during my second set of shoulder touches which, of course, elicited an “I’M TRYING!”  And as ridiculous as that is, I really need to figure out how to maintain the plank position when my forearms are so sweaty that they’re actually sliding out across the mat. Build more upper body strength?  I thought so.

Then we moved on to a bunch of simple [as in uncomplicated, not as in easy] upper body work, using my own body weight as resistance.  Of course the day that we spend the longest time in the personal trainer room [which is the hottest room in the gym aside from like, the sauna] is the day I leave my towel in my locker.  So I was SWEATING like a whore in church or a cop on tax day, take your pick.

Finally, Josh gave me the option of finishing up with either a timed mile or four minutes of Tabata on the eliptical or spin bike. I chose the timed mile.   I chose… poorly.

I got on the first treadmill out of the personal trainer room, which meant I was a: directly in front of a full-length mirror, and b: also directly in front of the water fountain.  This not only meant I had to stare at my flushed, panicked, sweaty face for ten minutes, but also that there was constantly this small crowd of people surrounding me waiting for the fountain.  Which brings me to this point: why the hell would you come to the gym and not bring a water bottle?!  Granted, I was super self-conscious and felt like everyone who was waiting for water was either staring at me outright, or staring at me in the mirror, and when you feel like everyone is looking at you while you’re sort of drowning, it only adds to your feelings of despair and general Edgar Allen Poe-ness.  But seriously, working out, if you’re working hard at all, really dehydrates you.  So you’re telling me that these people come to the gym and rely on the quarter cup of water they get from the fountain to hydrate themselves?  That’s preposterous.  What idiots.

Anyway, I managed to run the mile, but I was definitely not at my eight-minute PR.  That means “Personal Record,” by the way.  Now that I’m in the biz, I can use acronyms.  I felt utterly exhausted and slow during that run, whimpering that I felt like I was going to collapse.  I kept thinking, “I should have chosen the Tabata.”   But I mean hey, like Josh said, regardless of my mile time, by body recognized that I was pushing it really hard.  And that’s what’s important.

Keep a good, quick pace!  Keep your shoulders out over your hands!  This notebook has like a Five-Star cover–what’d this cost you, like two bucks?

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Before you even ask, no, this is not a boob-related post. Or a balls-related post, for that matter.

No, the “kid” in question is me, dear readers, for I am beginning to believe that I may just finish this triathlon after all.  This entry is going to be a double-whammy, as I got workouts in on Sunday AND Monday.  That’s right!  It’s the eye of the tiger!

I rode my bike to the gym on Sunday and, given that I was riding in weather that felt like a warm loaf of bread, I was super sweaty when I got there. And have you ever tried to put on a sports bra when your skin is wet? It’s simultaneously the most difficult and least flattering thing a person can do. Anyway, I went to the gym with the intention of swimming, but found that evidently everyone and their mother decides to swim laps at twelve thirty on the Fourth of July. So, I opted to run instead. Frankly, I can use all the work I can get in any of the triathlon events. Before I ran, I did some core work and a circuit of eight weight machines. I kind of like going to the gym alone–I go at my own pace, listen to my ipod–but I also get really self-conscious on the weight machines because I don’t really know how to use them?  Like, whoever had used the leg press before me must have been really short, and I didn’t know how to adjust it, so I pretty much had to squish myself into a tiny ball in order to use it.

So then I did a half hour on the treadmill, which brings me to my next point:  Smartwater.  I appreciate its mission, its whole evaporated, electrolyte-laden deal, but that bottle is too damn tall!  Trying to drink water out of a two-foot tall bottle with no squirt cap when you’re running can be really awkward.  You can’t sip out of the bottle like you normally would–you’ve got to like, suck the water out.  Which took me a couple tries to grasp.  I got water in my nose.  But I did almost three miles!

Monday delivered a workout, the likes of which Phil and I had never seen!  It was intense.  We started out with a fifteen minute walk on the treadmill, increasing the incline by one unit or percentage or kilo or whatever the hell the incline units are, every minute.  Doesn’t sound too bad, right?  Well, when we got our incline up to fifteen, I felt like I was going to tip over backwards.  After that, we did two circuits of core work that kind of kicked my ass:  planks, V-ups, these sort of straight-armed sit-ups, and sixty seconds seated on a bosu ball with our feet off the ground.  And I just look ridiculous doing those V-ups.  I look like I’m giving birth to a yoga ball.

To finish up, we did this crazy circuit of single-leg steps [onto a bench] while pressing free weights, tempo push-ups [lowering ourselves for a four-count, holding for two, then exploding back up], single-leg rows on a machine, single-leg scaptions with weights, lunges with one foot on a bosu ball, and then a lap with Josh holding a resistance band around our waists, holding us back.  So we went through that circuit twice and the only time I really maxed out was during the push-ups.  I wasn’t even doing them on the ground; I was doing them on a railing.  But still, man, they kill me.  And I was using twelve pound weights for the presses when I usually use eights, so that was tough, too.

I suppose my overall point is this: our workouts are still hard.  I want to make that very clear to both the reader and to Josh, okay?  Our workouts are still very hard.  However, they never really feel impossible anymore.  I used to get really anxious the night before and the morning of a workout, dreading what I wouldn’t be able to do, what would make me cry or feel like a failure.  Now, I almost always go into our workouts feeling cautiously confident–excited to use the strength and endurance I’ve acquired so far.

Hard as you can go!  Good job!

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