Category Archives: Fitness

The Rise and Fall of the Early-Bird Exerciser

It took years for me to become a morning exerciser.

I mean, partly, it took years for me to become an exerciser, full-stop. The first time I remember going to the gym regularly was the first year after college, living alone in the suburbs, driving over to the nearby 24-Hour Fitness on Sunday nights to watch Desperate Housewives on the elliptical. I hadn’t found exercise I truly loved yet — was years from running (much less triathlon) — and going to the gym was tough enough on its own without an alarm blaring in my ear before dawn. I love sleep, I’m a night owl through and through, and the last thing that was going to motivate me to start healthy habits was an early wake-up call.

Then I spent a while working a job with a regular shift starting at 7 a.m. an hour away from home, and so while getting up at 5 became the norm, it was “getting up at 5 a.m. to stumble into the shower, wake up just enough to get coffee into the mug, and get to the car” — not “getting up at 5 for a nice, hardcore pre-breakfast sweat sesh.” When I stopped working that job, I maybe thought for three seconds that I’d keep my earlybird hours and use that time for working out, but then I remembered for the first time in a year how nice sleep was.

It was somewhere in my first year of running that I shifted over to a morning schedule. For one thing, I learned that I hated running into the wind that picks up in San Francisco many afternoons, and the temporary pain of dragging myself out of bed was worth it to have a more pleasant run overall. For another, I was working a job that had less flexibility in the evenings than it did in the mornings, so the only way I could guarantee time to run was to do it early. I got hooked on that feeling that I’d already done something good for myself before going to the office, that I’d secured a tiny bit of time and sanity that nothing would steal away.

Ever since then, most of my workouts, and probably all of my best ones, have happened before work. I’d do something in the evening if that’s the only way it could happen — rock climbing when my partner was free after work, yoga when the better classes are all post-6 p.m., afternoon running during that awful semester of grad school when I had to be in Berkeley before 9 a.m. — but my preference was to put in the miles or the yards first, then get on with my day. I’m not some super early riser — 6:30 is about the best I can do without an extraordinary dose of motivation — but that’s usually enough for me to get in an hour of something, 90 minutes if I put in some extra prep time the night before. Through a marathon and several half-marathons and my first couple of triathlons, that’s been plenty. During Vineman, I had some double-workout days, but the morning one was typically the easy one to do; it was the evening swim or bike or run where I had to bargain with myself to get off the couch.

But all of a sudden, I’ve felt myself rocketing back toward an evening schedule.

The first blow was Wednesday night track. Track itself has been great for me; I love the workouts and the camaraderie and there’s no way I would work that hard on my own. But the harder I work, the less I want to get up less than 12 hours later for another workout on Thursday morning. At first, I thought track would just wipe out a Thursday morning run, and I was cool with that. But in fact, I quickly found it wiping out Thursday morning workouts of any sort, pushing them to the evening or turning Thursday into a rest day as I dumped everything onto Friday’s schedule.

Then I started going to evening computrainer classes — at first on Tuesdays, which was fine because Wednesday was evening track, and then on Thursdays, which was also fine because it eliminated my waking-up-after-Wednesday-track issues. But still, that was two nights out of a possible four. (Let’s be real, I’m probably never going to work out on a Friday evening. Actually, I used to, because the 24-Hour Fitness closest to our second San Francisco apartment was a hotbed of adorable gay couples going on gym dates and the people-watching was A+. But that was a very specific situation.)

Then I started working with TAG to Santa Cruz, and we swim at Aquatic Park … after work on Mondays. The nail in the coffin. I’m an evening exerciser again.

This week: Monday night Aquatic Park. Tuesday night computrainer. Wednesday night track. Thursday AM swim on the schedule … which I absolutely slept through.

I do not like being an evening exerciser. I do not like having to be hyper-conscious of what I’m eating all day and making sure it will settle well enough for me to get a good workout in. I do not like not being home to make dinner. I do not like being sweaty and gross before bed, and I’m not terribly interested in taking a second shower. I do not like how I get home late enough that my motivation to do stuff around the house is gone — and I cannot summon said motivation in the morning, so this week was four nights in a row of me saying “I need to clean the bathtub,” then promptly dozing off on the couch.

Morning exercise means my mornings can be for me and my evenings can be for me — or, more accurately, my evenings can be for happy hours and errands and baking and chores and TV and books and un-damp hair and yoga, which is totally different for some reason. Which is basically the same as them being “for me.”

I’m stuck with this through the end of September, and then I’ll suddenly be free of a group schedule for the first time since February. I have no idea yet what my “offseason” will hold, but I know it’ll involve some mornings of rising with the sun. And, much as 2007 me doesn’t really believe this, I can’t wait. While I may still dread the morning alarm from time to time, it’s definitely better for me than the alternative.


Review: Moving Comfort Endurance Racer Sports Bra

I wrote recently about my problems with sports bra chafing, and I finally decided to woman up, open my wallet, and do something about it. It always makes me shudder a little — sports bras for the well-endowed are pricey, so I expect them to be made of magic and last forever — but my No. 1 rule for spending is “If you touch it every day, it’s worth the money,” and this definitely qualifies.

I planned to order a new Juno to see if maybe mine were just worn out. But on the way, I encountered Moving Comfort’s new Endurance Racer. The colors were good, the keyhole back was a new style for me, and the price ($52) and size options (bra sizes, not S-M-L) were in line with what I was expecting, so I ordered it instead. Moving Comfort has a 30-day wear-and-see return policy, so I’ve been putting this bra through its paces over the past month. Here’s what I’ve found.

Moving Comfort Endurance Racer

Fit, Fabric, and Aesthetics
The one review that had been posted when I ordered noted that the straps were short, so just in case, I ordered two different Endurance Racers — my usual size as well as one band size up. The straps fastened fine in my regular size, so I never even took the bigger one out of the bag. The shoulder straps use the same adjustable velcro as most other Moving Comfort bras I’ve owned, and the back strap was comfortably snug on the loosest hook. I know people who have trouble fastening the clasps of Moving Comfort bras or who have had the velcro come loose during a workout, but in five years, I’ve never had either issue. Given that, I didn’t find the bra any easier or more challenging to put on and adjust than anything else in the Moving Comfort line.

The fabric is a lot like Moving Comfort’s Jubralee, and it feels thinner and silkier than the Juno. This is a plus for me: One of the things I’ve disliked about the Juno is its foaminess/sponginess, which makes it bulky (it takes up a good amount of space in a drawer or suitcase, compared to the Jubralee). I also think the Juno can be a little slow to dry — not so much when it’s just doing normal sweat-wicking but more when it’s thoroughly drenched, as it can be during rainy runs or when worn on a triathlon swim.

I was curious to know how the back straps would sit, and the best news was that on initial try-on, I barely noticed them. Straight straps sometimes slip off my shoulders, and racerbacks can feel hot and constraining, so the wide, open keyhole of the Endurance Racer hits a sweet spot. I tried several running tanks with it, and while the narrowest racerbacks in my collection (think Lululemon’s Cool Racerback) left quite a bit of strap exposed, slightly wider-backed shirts like the REI Fleet tank or the Athleta Wick-It tank I wore in Berlin covered everything fully.

The front, though, is where the Endurance Racer disappoints me. The seams around the mesh area at the front of the bra aren’t flat; they’re raised upward and outward. So under any sort of thinner shirt — aka, almost every shirt I own — the outline of the cup area is quite visible. Now, I recognize that it’s not going to be news to anyone who sees me run that my chest requires a sports bra. But when I wear the Endurance Racer under a plain tank, it essentially looks like someone has drawn a circle around each boob, and those circles are now showing through my shirt. I’m not striving to hide the fact that I’m wearing a sports bra, but I’m also not trying to advertise or draw more attention to my chest, and the Endurance Racer left me feeling exposed.

On the Run
Aesthetics aside, how did it perform? So far, I’ve worn it during three easy runs, two track workouts, and a bike-run brick. I wore it under thin shirts and under shirts with built-in sports bras, under short sleeves, long sleeves, and no sleeves. And across the board, it felt great. I shortened the shoulder straps after feeling a bit too much movement during my first track workout, and I still had plenty of room to tighten them further. The longest I’ve run in it is 6.5 miles, so I don’t know how it will do on a true long run, but my Junos start chafing around 5 miles these days, and I didn’t have even a whisper of chafing with the Endurance Racer.

Most notably for me, it was a dream under the Athleta PR Tank, a shirt I bought specifically for cycling and triathlon and wore during both of my tris last year. The PR Tank has a built-in sports bra that’s the worst of all worlds: not supportive enough for me to run in alone but stiff and bulky enough that with a Juno on under it, I feel smushed (and, in the case of triathlons, damp). The Endurance Racer is enough thinner and lighter that I felt almost sleek with it on under the PR.

In the blue color I ordered, it shows sweat readily, so if you’re a sports-bra-only runner, that may be worth bearing in mind.

The Verdict
So am I keeping it? I have about 24 more hours before my 30-day trial period closes, and I’m torn. On the one hand, I do like how it performs, especially under the PR Tank that I’m likely to wear in at least one triathlon (and plenty of training days) this year. On the other hand, the front design really does make me feel uncomfortable. When I went out for my group run this morning, I spent a while trying to find a top that didn’t make the giant boob circles quite so obvious (good: anything printed or patterned; anything with a built-in shelf bra; thicker race shirts that have that waffle-y weave. bad: anything silky, thin, or even remotely clingy), and while I eventually found some options, the entire effort just bothered me. I want to throw on a top and go, not worry about what’s showing and what’s not! I don’t consider myself an overly modest person, but I also like maintaining some measure of secrecy about just what’s happening under my shirt. The Endurance Racer didn’t chafe, it fits well, it dries fast — it’s everything I want, except for those damn seams. If I keep it, it will be largely because of how well it will work for tris, but $52 seems like a lot to spend for a utility player in my bra wardrobe.

Disclaimer: I bought this bra with my own funds and wore it in accordance with Moving Comfort’s 30-day satisfaction guarantee.

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How I’m Attempting to Fix Myself

One fact I should note right off the top: I am not a doctor. I didn’t even take AP bio. The only letters after my name have to do with writing words and organizing information systems, and it turns out that alarmist googling of Runner’s World injury forums does not in fact make one a font of valid medical advice.

What I am, though, is a runner who gets injured a lot and has to dig herself out of it.

Since I started running in 2008, I’ve been making my way through a checklist of most of the standard running injuries. Plantar fasciitis? Check. Achilles tendinitis? Sure. IT band syndrome? Reporting for duty. Not-shin-splints-and-probably-not-MTSS-but-something-else-lower-leg-ish? I got your NSSAPNMTSSBSELLI right here.

So I wanted to document what I’m doing to try to get, and stay, healthy this summer. The vast majority of these exercises came to me via the PTs at the CPMC outpatient physical therapy clinic; a handful came from my best friend the internet. Obviously, at a whopping 10 days into my return to running (which has yet to include a continuous run without walk breaks), it’s a bit early to say they’re working — but I have been at this place with injuries before, where things occasionally feel tight but never hurt, and I think of it as a small hop from there to “you’re fine; stop worrying about it.”

Of course, I might someday end up saying, oh, screw it, none of this stuff worked and these other things I’ve never even heard of today were actually the magic bullets. If that happens, I’ll update this post. Pinky-swear.


When I was first in physical therapy after my IT band went bananas last summer, I was given three main “homework” exercises: single-leg squats, single-leg deadlifts, and single-leg sideways step-downs. There were a few others thrown in for me to do as I felt like it or as part of a regular core routine — most notably planks and bridges — but those three were the gold standard.

When I went back for the mysterious leg injury, I got more or less the same exercises, only now I do them barefoot. The first step of each of these exercises is to transfer my weight onto the standing leg and concentrate on “pulling up” my arch. To me, that feels like pushing the base of my big toe into the ground, spreading my toes slightly and creating a sturdy base. In all honesty, I hadn’t been doing this step until, uh, last week, and as soon as I got the correction, I noticed a difference. The bigger muscles these exercises were initially intended to work — glutes and hamstrings, mostly — are stronger now than they were last summer; the teeny tiny muscles in my feet and legs, though, still need help, and focusing on my foot position forces them to wake up.

Here’s what I currently consider my Big Four, which I do at least twice a week. A full set (2x through each exercise) takes me between 20 and 40 minutes, depending, basically, on how many times I lose my balance and fall over. I used to combine them with lifting at the gym, but now that I’m doing them barefoot, I’m sticking to my living room — which is fine, because that’s where the TV is.

  • Single-leg squats. I do these two different ways: with my resting leg held up just off the ground in front of me, or with my resting leg alternately going to the front, the side, the back, and across my body behind me (e.g. crossing my right knee behind my left and reaching my right foot toward my left side when my left leg is working). I’ll either do 20 of the straight-up-and-down ones or 10 of the multi-directional ones per set.
  • Single-leg deadlifts. I’ve also done these different ways, both weighted and unweighted. I always start with my working leg very slightly bent at the knee and my free leg extended behind me. In one version I hold a light weight in one hand and, as I hinge forward, aim it in three different directions: the outside of my standing leg, my ankle (e.g. straight down), and the inside of my standing leg. I always forget which hand the weight is “supposed” to be in, but according to my PT, it works with either, so I alternate. In the unweighted version, I hold onto something like a skinny PVC pipe (at PT) or my Stick (at home) with both hands and hinge straight forward, keeping the stick/pipe level and maintaining stability and control with my standing leg. I aim for 10 of the multi-directional ones (30 total, though I can typically only get through 7 or 8 rounds with good form so far) or 15-20 of the straight-up-and-down ones.
  • Sideways step-downs. I hate these with a fiery passion, so I guess I need to do them. I stand with the foot of my working leg on the outside edge of a box and my free leg dangling off it to the side. I bend/squat with the working leg until the foot of the free leg just barely touches the floor, then push myself back up. I do 15 on each leg.
  • Single-leg calf raises. An oldie but a goodie; I started doing the double-leg version after every run a couple of years ago. (I live on the second floor, so when I come in the door, I do 10 on the bottom stair and 10 on the top stair.) I’m now also doing a single-leg version on the same step I use for the step-downs, dropping my heel off the back and pushing up fully onto my toes. I shoot for 15 on each leg and usually want to cry by 12.

And I’m also doing a few things every day, or at least five times per week:

  • Ankle inversion/eversion with a resistance band. Cris explains this well.
  • Balancing on one foot. Just…balancing on one foot. I do 30 seconds with my eyes open on each foot, then 30 seconds with my eyes closed on each foot. Luckily, I watch a lot of TV, so I do this during commercial breaks, which also makes commercial breaks go a lot faster.
  • Foam rolling/Stick-ing/rolling on a lacrosse ball. Like, a lot. Again, good thing I watch so much TV. I try to get my IT bands, hamstrings, quads, and calves with the roller (regular most of the time, trigger point when something feels especially in need of attention) every day. I’ll also sit with a lacrosse ball under any knots in my calves and then roll the inside of my left leg on it. I’m trying to use The Stick more, because it can be very targeted, but I’m a little wimpy with it and don’t think I apply enough pressure.

Some things that occasionally get thrown into my routine:

  • Catch on a bosu ball. I stand on the squishy part of a bosu ball with both feet while someone else throws a light, soft medicine ball at me in different directions and I reach to catch it without coming off the bosu.
  • Bosu steps. I stand behind a bosu ball, squishy side up. With one foot at a time, I’ll step partially onto the bosu — not fully onto the surface but just enough feel resistance — and then push back and repeat with the other foot. I’ve also done these standing to either side of the bosu to get more practice moving laterally.
  • Karate kicks. I like this one cause it freaks out my cats. Standing on one leg, lift the opposite knee to waist height and then kick that leg to the front, then side, then back. I repeat 10 times or until I fall over.
  • Bridges (two-legged and single-legged); planks (regular and side). Since I started going back to yoga, I don’t do these as much on their own, but sometimes if I’m already lying down I’ll throw a couple in.

And, most recently, I started doing the MYRTL routine (PDF; video) after every run. Given that it’s supposed to help with hip stability/flexibility, which I know I need, I figured it wouldn’t hurt. That was my actual logic: “I figured it wouldn’t hurt.” And that, folks, is why I’m not a doctor.

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The Trainer Thing

Alternate title for this post:
How to Turn a $40 Deal into a Stupidly Pricey Endeavor

(Or: Why I am not allowed to buy any more daily deals — or, frankly, buy anything — for a very long time.)

I’ve belonged to 24-Hour Fitness for almost eight years now, but I’ve always not-so-secretly wanted to bail for a fancy gym — one with fun classes and towel service and machines that get fixed, equipment possibly purchased this millennium, and maybe even showers that have been recently cleaned. When I was looking for jobs last summer, I spent some of my downtime cashing in all the free 3- and 5- and 7-day guest passes I could at some of the city’s swankier gyms. My logic was that when I got a job, I’d finally say farewell to the serviceable but unimpressive 24 and hop to a sweet gym where I’d look forward to sweating.

I learned quickly that none of the swanky gyms met my needs. They were either too far from my probable work locations or too far from home or otherwise inconvenient in a way that I knew meant my membership fees would be going down the drain every month; they had strange class reservation policies that were even more frustrating than 24’s first-come, first-served; and — worst of all — very few of them had swimming pools and/or lap swim schedules that fit into my life. I’m destined to be a member of 24 for life (or, at least, for as long as I live where I do and work where I do and swim; there’s, sadly, nothing better).

But in the fall, LivingSocial posted a deal for $40 for a one-month membership to Crunch, and I barely took a breath before I bought it. Crunch was the first gym I had to cross off my list — no pools anywhere in the city — but its multiple locations and crazy classes had made it the one where I most wanted to go, my gym spirit animal. So $40 for a month of upside-down yoga and spin with a disco ball seemed like a no-brainer.

The deal also came with a free personal training session — which someone on their membership staff (erroneously?) decided actually meant two free personal training sessions when I finally cashed in the deal at the start of February.

I’ve worked out with trainers twice before. Once was at 24, and it was terrible, and I actually stopped going to that location of the gym altogether for a while because I didn’t want to run into the trainer who I felt had completely ignored my requests for what I wanted to learn and do in favor of pushing some general weight loss curriculum. The second time was with an independent trainer I worked with for a few months, and she was amazing, but she now has a kid and a Stroller Strides franchise and the gym where she used to train is on the far opposite side of the city from where I live now, so we parted ways in 2008.

Since then, I’ve been curious from time to time what it would be like to have a trainer again. There are things I like about the experience and things I don’t; I’m very particular about what motivates me and what, frankly, makes me want to quit, and that’s something not all trainers get. I also like being in control of my own schedule and not feeling beholden to what someone else thinks I should be doing (yes, even if they’re right). So I went into the Crunch sessions with a moderately open mind — but also with full intention of getting the hell out of there once my free sessions were done.

At this point, it’s clear where the story is going.

I met my trainer a couple of weeks ago. Our intro session started with a bunch of basic exercises (squats, mostly) so he could see how I moved. I’ve done this kind of thing before; I know this is where trainers tell you all of the things that are horribly wrong with you before you’ve even dared try to exercise. That’s exactly what happened here — but the weird thing is, he was right. Within 50 squats, he’d managed to diagnose nearly every problem my physical therapist had spotted last fall. Granted, it was a little discouraging that those things I’d worked hard to fix were still so obvious; at the same time, I was like, “yes, the right side of my body is ‘very interesting.’ You think you can help? I’m all ears.”

The rest of that first session continued to exceed my expectations, particularly in how he handled most of the moments that had ever made me cringe with another trainer. (“Well, based on the three minutes I’ve known you, I think you could lose X pounds.” “Yeah, um, I’ve done that before, and that was not good for me. I’m interested in core and upper body strength, not getting injured running or triathlon training, and — if it comes along with that — I suppose I wouldn’t mind also losing x pounds, but that’s not my priority.” “Oh. Sure. I think that sounds awesome.” “Wait, you’re not going to tell me I have to lose X pounds or I’m not trying hard enough?” “No. You’re training for a triathlon? Losing X pounds would be stupid.” “… I like you.”)

Over the two free sessions, we had a few false starts on the motivational cues. (Don’t tell me I’m “looking good,” cause honestly, I’m sweaty and gross, and if I’m not, I better be soon; don’t tell me I’m “doing awesome!!!!!” when I’m just doing what you know I’m capable of doing; don’t tell me most of the women you train can’t hit that number, because I think you probably say that to most of the women you train.) But he quickly figured out the only real way to motivate me, which is to pit me against me. Tell me to get 225 meters rowing, and I’ll get 250. Tell me you think I can do 12 reps of something, I’ll do 15. Tell me you think I can do 17 the next time, and I’ll do 20. Underestimate me, and I’ll show you what I can do. And after that, the workouts were great.

So yeah. I could have walked away after two sessions. And I almost did. I really did. And then I found myself pointing at the 10-session package on the rate card and reciting my credit card number.

Our first official workout was this morning, and I can already tell that integrating this with everything else I’m doing going to be tough. But he knows that the triathlon training group is my priority, and he respects that, and if that means I’m not running 400 intervals on the treadmill because, oh hey, I just did that on the track last night, that’s cool. I think he’s happy just to have a client to whom he doesn’t need to give “cardio homework.”

If he’s as good as he claims to be, he’ll be able to correct some of the stupid nonsense with my silly overcompensating body that’s contributed to so many of my injuries — or at least set me on a path that I can continue following on my own. I’ve tried other things. I’ve tried physical therapy, cross-training, time off, you name it. I haven’t tried concentrated personal training dedicated to strengthening those weaknesses, and at this point, I’m willing to try anything.

If he’s not as good as he claims, at least he got me access to another month of upside-down yoga.


Sports I Have Loved, Part One: Rollerblading

Kaiser Permanente has this ad campaign that’s kind of everywhere in the Bay Area right now called “Find Your Thing.” If you live in a Kaiser service area and watch TV, you may have seen this ad, which I want to be annoyed by because I’ve seen it a thousand times but can’t hate because the sad Wii Mii makes me giggle.

I also can’t hate because I see a lot of truth in it. There can be a lot of pressure to do some particular athletic activity — running, crossfit, zumba, yoga, whatever. And when you don’t love it, it seems like there must be something wrong with you. Or at least that’s how I felt in college, when my friends were always running and going to the gym, and I was like, “… but I hate these things!”

Fact: When I went away to college, I didn’t exercise. Like, at all. I have memories of going to the gym once as a freshman, and it was right before sorority rush, and I hated everything, and anyway, I just didn’t exercise for basically two years. I wasn’t proud of that, or not proud of that; it’s just how it was.

As a kid, I danced — competitively for several years in junior high, then less competitively but still regularly throughout high school. Long nights in the studio, or marching around a parking lot at dance team practice, seemed like plenty of activity, and I never really gave much thought to the idea that I’d need to replace it when I stopped. And I didn’t really grow up with other sports, other than a brief devotion to summer YMCA softball (I have terrible depth perception and can’t hit or catch, but I was a weirdly good slow-pitch pitcher) and the occasional game of tennis with my mom. So with dance out of my life and a pretty good sense that I didn’t want to go to the gym, I was pretty lost when it came to physical activity.

And then, in my 20s, I started slowly picking up sports. My motivation varied — friendship; vanity; a change in my physical environment; a new schedule; a crazy thing I read on the internet; a desire to “get in shape” without needing to set foot in the gym — but the pattern was the same: I’d throw myself into each of them for a while with an almost fanatical devotion, then jump to the next, then the next. In my quest to find “my thing,” I might have found too many, which is why I’m now a runner and aspiring triathlete who’s also a novice rock climber who still dreams of getting her yoga teacher certification and has too many Pilates groupons. It’s kind of a mess, but it’s a better kind of mess than the one I was in when I was 19. Looking through some old pictures the other night, I started thinking about all the stops on the way from there to here. And the first of those stops was:

Rollerblading (2002-2006)
I was living in Erie, PA, and working as a newspaper intern, and two of the full-time reporters I befriended had started rollerblading around a state park. It was a gorgeous summer, and I was desperate for social interaction, and before I even really processed what was happening, I was at the local Dick’s Sporting Goods (where you will be instructed to check your firearms at customer service — holla, Western PA) buying a pair of skates. I skated a mile of the path, then two; I think by the end of the summer I was up to four miles. I’d always turn back before the path became one-way, because I couldn’t imagine skating all the way around a freakin’ peninsula, but it was still miles further than those first wobbly steps away from my car.

Presque Isle. Erie, you were not such a bad place to live for a while.

I took my rollerblades to Chicago that year and discovered the lakefront path, where I learned that Presque Isle had not prepared me for stopping on even the smallest hill. (There’s a cabbie who saw me grab for a railing on a bridge by Navy Pier, flip a 180 while completely airborne, and land on my stomach, and he somehow managed to ask if I was OK without laughing in my face. To this day, I am thankful for that cabbie.) At some point, I learned to stop, but not before careening through a farmer’s market while visiting a friend in Redondo Beach. (If ever you need to decide whether to skate into a wooden fence or a metal chain-link fence, I say take the metal — no splinters and you’ll bounce off.) During my internship in San Jose, I skated almost every day — in the morning in Los Gatos when I worked the night shift, in the afternoons in Shoreline Park when I worked days and the traffic getting back to my sublet in Santa Clara was too annoying. It was the first time in my life that I had done something physical on a daily basis just because I wanted to.

Before I left the Bay Area that spring, I skated for the first time on a path that I now run — from the Ferry Building to the Giants’ stadium and back up to Pier 39. That summer, back in Erie, I made it all the way around Presque Isle while listening to Tom Waits’ The Heart of Saturday Night on cassette on my hand-held walkman — a detail I remember because I remember every second of how awesome it felt to accomplish something that had seemed impossible. During my senior year in Chicago, I’d drive to a particular parking spot on the North Side and skate the path all the way down to the Museum of Science and Industry; I just calculated it for the first time, and that route was 16 miles. Sixteen miles! I guess I know how I started loving endurance events.

When I rented my first apartment in Mountain View after college, I picked it partially because it was skating distance from a trail to Shoreline Park. I still had that same silly walkman, bruised from hitting the ground first every time I fell, and I’d skate after work as much as I could, taping my favorite CDs and NPR programs to keep me company. (Yep, it was 2004.) Somehow — I mean, through the internet — I met a girl who also skated, and we signed up for an inline skating marathon in Napa, my first-ever race of any kind.

On: skates, dorky helmet, staring-into-the-middle-distance game face

The race itself was kind of a disaster — I had issues with a skate and barely made it up the last set of hills at the end of the first half before calling it quits. (<– Aaaaand this is the moment that I realize my psychological problems in races date way back.) But I loved every second of the training — pushing myself to skate longer and tougher terrain, getting to know this stranger who happened to share my weird hobby. There will be plenty of echoes of this in my running story.

I mostly put my skates away when I moved to San Francisco in 2006. There’s not a ton of friendly terrain around for skating that’s long enough for the kind of workout I wanted to get, and at this point, when I get up the motivation to drive to my old favorite paths, I’m running them instead. I do miss it, though, and when you put me in a place with a long, flat stretch of multi-use trail, I’ll be the girl looking up nearby rollerblade rentals.

Next up: Hiking.

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Missing: Morning Motivation

My morning mojo is gone.

I shouldn’t be surprised; I’m about as night-owly as they come. My ideal sleeping schedule would be 2 a.m. – 10 a.m., and given that I spent most of the past two years as a grad student, I was able to live that fantasy for longer than was probably healthy.

But when I went back to work in September, I recommitted myself to the concept of morning workouts. By this point, I’m well aware that if I don’t work out in the morning — especially in the winter — it’s unlikely to get done. My couch is awesome, I love television, and once it’s dark, I’m not moving. I’ll make exceptions for post-work yoga or the spin classes my gym only offers at night, but if it’s something like swimming or running that requires my own motivation (versus a financial commitment or a published schedule) to get me out the door? It’s happening before work or it’s not happening at all.

(It’s worth noting that when I say “morning” I’m not talking about 5:15 a.m. I know who you people are, and you’re freaking heroes. I’m talking, maybe my alarm goes off at 6:30. The sun is nearly up; it’s not even that early. Just to give true color to the wimpiness.)

For about three months, my “Get Up and #&*^#^ing Sweat” alarm did its job. Sure, sometimes I overslept and got myself to the pool with juuuuust enough time for 30 minutes of laps; sometimes I ran 3 miles instead of 5. But for the most part, I was out of bed and doing something by 7 a.m., which gives me a solid hour for a workout — even 90 minutes if I push it. I made running dates with friends at hours I hadn’t been awake for in years! I learned to shower at the gym! I figured out I could ditch my stuff at the 24-Hour Fitness near work while I ran along the water in the mornings (and, later, that I could blow-dry my hair with the gym’s hand dryer)! That trickling sound you hear is the pride seeping from my very veins, because dammit, I was a morning exerciser!

And then 2012 hit, and with it came a deep desire to burrow under my covers.

I think I’m looking at a little bit of burnout, a little bit of aimlessness, and a little bit of valid excuse. Not feeling great? OK, yes, sure, sleep it off. Just a couple of races left on the schedule? Well, I’m still running, aren’t I? Triathlon training starting soon? Well, I’m sure those coaches will change up everything I’m doing anyway, so why bother maintaining a soon-to-be-outdated training plan?

But when I’m still awake at 6:30, just using that time to read Twitter on my phone and wonder why the garbage trucks have to make such a racket so early and think about how comfortable bed is and maybe slip back into a brief nap … well, would it really be that hard to just put my feet on the floor and then put shoes on my feet?

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12 Goals for 2012

(A fitness-related blog with a goals post? WHAAAA? I realized the other day that Running Cliche would have been an awesome name for this blog.)

I’ve been running since 2008, but 2011 was the first year I’d even toy with calling myself a runner. I started the year coming back from injury with my second half-marathon and a PR at Kaiser in February, discovered the joy of shorter races with a Palo Alto 8K in March, trotted through Bay to Breakers in neon-blue footless tights in May, set a 10K PR at Lake Merritt in August, and finished half-marathons every six weeks from late August through early December.

I ran all over the Bay Area and in Seattle, Miami, Portland, Midland (MI), Barcelona, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Munich, Oslo, and Berlin. On January 1, 2011, I set a goal of 450 miles for myself, and I finished the year closer to 650 (between my Nike+ and my memory of what Nike+ left out, I’m somewhere around 635 for the year) — 200 miles more than I’ve ever run in a calendar year before. And for the first time, I made it through a running year without significant time off due to injury; perhaps that’s because my injuries were ones I was cleared to run through, but regardless, I discovered a physical therapy routine and a training strategy that I hope will keep me healthy through 2012 and beyond.

In 2011, I felt — for truly the first time in my life — that I have athletic potential left to reach. And in 2012, I’m ready to start reaching.

Here are a few things I’m hoping to hit along the way.

Overall goals
1. Start and finish my first marathon healthy
This is the big goal for the year and the one that scares me most. September 30 is a long time from now, and I’m an injury-prone runner with a history of making it till about August before falling apart. Having all my precarious eggs in one race basket (METAPHOR!) freaks me out. But I’m going into 2012 with a better base than I’ve ever had, a good strength-training and physical therapy routine, and some time to experiment with running and cross-training schedules during and after triathlon training in the spring. My experiences in 2011 taught me that being proactive — and just plain active — helps me heal faster, and I’ve got a good team in my corner that believes in that philosophy. I won’t be officially training for this marathon till June, but in my mind, I’ve been training since the day I registered.

2. Race once a month
I train better than I race, practically 100% of the time. But I’ve raced relatively rarely, and I’ve only gone to the line with a “go kill it” mindset twice (one of which worked — my 10K PR — and one of which clearly didn’t). I want to get into the habit of showing up to a race to race it, to learn to use my watch for good instead of evil, and to never make the same mistake twice.

3. Run 750 miles
This is part of a bigger goal — I hope to run 3500 miles between ages 30 and 35. This would set a good pace.

4. Get over my fear of the bike
To me, this means: being able to ride in a bike lane on a street with traffic; being able to consider clipping in by April; riding across the Golden Gate Bridge; learning to pick up speed downhill rather than ride the brakes the whole time; and feeling comfortable steadying myself with one hand to signal or eat.

5. Learn how to prioritize
My original version of this list was silly-long, filled with goals both big and small in every sport I’ve ever dabbled in. And then I took a step back and was like, Whoa, Kimra, this looks like a disaster in the making. For someone who hated all exercise until 2003, I sure have a lot of things that I love doing now, and I want to do all of them, all of the time — and I have the exercise-related Groupons to prove it. This year looks like it will unfold in phases — a running phase, a goofing-around-at-Crunch phase, a triathlon phase, another long running phase — and I want to use other activities in a way that makes sense for each of those times, not in a way that’s foolish and overwhelming.

6. Make yoga a regular part of my life again
Yoga always makes sense and is never foolish or overwhelming. I know this to be true, and I still skip it. 2012: More yoga than any year since 2009, mark my words.

7. Figure out nutrition
I will never be a “food-is-fuel” eater (I’m a “food-is-delicious-and-I-love-cheese” eater), but I could, uh, eat smarter. I think my birthday gift to myself will be a trip to the very-much-not-covered-by-insurance nutritionist at my doctors’ office.

Race Time Goals
8. Run a sub-2:00 half-marathon
Um, duh. I’m one cocktail away from officially signing up to try again in February.

9. Run a sub-54:00 10K
I actually like the 10K distance, and my PR is currently the fastest pace I’ve ever run in a race. And I finished that race knowing I could do better.

10. Race a 5K
I have never raced a 5K. I have actually never even run an official 5K. I may do this in March or later in the year, and I have no time goal in mind other than “run explodey hard.”

11. Finish a 10-miler under 1:30
I’ve got a 10-miler on my radar for January and it would be a good gut-check before Kaiser. I also just really like running 10 miles, so I have a sense I might also like racing 10 miles.

12. Run a mile — any mile — that starts with a 7
Supposedly my Nike+ mile record is 7:51, and I have definitely a) not run a mile that fast with a properly calibrated Nike+ and b) done it more than once even with an uncalibrated Nike+. I can hold a 7:xx pace for an 800 and low-8s for a 1200, so I’m close, but I haven’t put it all together yet. At least once in 2012, I will.

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12 Days of Christmas Challenge: The Results

On December 15, I kicked off my totally arbitrary 12 Days of Christmas fitness challenge. The idea: complete a bunch of mini-goals loosely tied to that ubiquitous song — 12 something-somethings, 11 something-elses, etc. — between that day and December 31.

How’d I do? Surprisingly well, save for for one big fail … but I’ll get to that in a second.

Silly as it might have been, I’m glad I did this challenge. It kept me active when it would have been easier to sit on the couch, bore enough resemblance to training that I could still decide to run a half-marathon in February without feeling like I’m starting from scratch, and gave me a satisfying list to check off. For the most part, this was just about the right amount of activity to feel encouraging, not burdensome.

Here’s the rundown:

12 total workouts/workout days

Check! I actually ended up with 14 days, relatively consistent with my usual routine.

11 one-minute planks
I’m at 10 right now, but I’ll do the 11th today. I stalled on this for a long time, then started knocking them off in sets of two. Verdict: elbow planks are much harder for me than straight-arm planks.

10 minutes of core work per day
Partial credit. I did this far more days than I didn’t, but I also skipped it entirely twice and did some double-counting of certain yoga classes.

9 new exercises
This was the most fun part of the whole challenge! I tried four new OnDemand/online workouts (Just Abs, Pilates Power, YogaWorks Core Flow, and Yoga for Athletes), two weights routines (The Core from Health on the Run and this Carrots N Weights upper-body routine), running in my Brooks PureCadences (love, so far, though they’ve only got a treadmill mile on them), swimming a mile straight, and an Ashtanga Mix yoga class in Pete’s hometown. I’m now slightly obsessed with The Core, even though I had to lower the weights the second time I did it so I could walk the day after.

8(0) minutes of strength training

Partial credit. I ended up with 65 minutes over three dedicated sessions, plus another 60 minutes of doing physical therapy exercises.

7 climbing routes/problems finished

Yes! The first goal I checked off this list. I was actually planning to revise this to seven attempted; I wanted to keep pushing myself rather than climbing easy stuff because I knew I could finish it. But then I had the night where I walked around the gym taking down new problems like a boss, and no revision was necessary.

6 days of running

Check — including one virtual 10K and a couple of runs in the snow. I’ll technically finish up with seven days, but one of those was a one-mile test of new shoes.

5 morning workouts

As long as we’re counting “morning” as “before everyone in the house has had breakfast,” then yes. I had one spectacular fail of waking up at 6:30 a.m. the day after Christmas, sneaking around the basement trying to gather up my swimming stuff without waking anyone, and easing my way out the garage door only to discover I was parked in. (Did I then go for a run or something? Hell no, I got back into bed.) But I managed to wake up for a yoga class later in the week to hit my #5.

4 yoga or pilates “classes”

Yes, and one of them was even a proper class at a studio. I learned that a lot of old ExerciseTV stuff is now available on Hulu Plus; I also learned that it has ads, which is really frustrating when you’ve just gotten into some kind of fairly elaborate twist.

3 workouts with friends

This ended up being tougher than I thought; I’m not the best at coordinating schedules. I ran the virtual 10K with family and went to the yoga class with Pete, so that’s the first two. And at least Pete and I will be running again today, so sure, that counts.

2 miles swimming

Yes — hooray! I even got to practice swimming a mile in one shot at Pete’s hometown pool, which didn’t have the 30-minute lane limit of my San Francisco gym. Thanks to that outing, I beat this by a handful of 100s.

1 long ride on Penelope
Aaaaand the fail. Granted, it was logistically the toughest one to fit into the schedule, and it fell prey to (among other things) darkness, rain, buying a car, rain again, and Christmas shopping. I had one last shot to squeeze it in yesterday, but it was drizzly and dark, and I didn’t want to set myself up for a miserable experience. Penelope will still be there in 2012, though.

Did you get any last fitness goals checked off your list before the end of 2011?


Three Things Thursday

1. I knocked my first item off The Challenge on Tuesday with a fantastic bouldering session. I have a tortured relationship with bouldering; it turns out I do not much like balancing precariously without a rope, even if I’m only three feet off the ground and surrounded by padded mats laid atop a springy, additionally padded floor. Every so often, though, my balance is on and I feel gutsier than normal and I can get on a roll, and that happened this time. I pretty much marched around the gym taking down every V1 (the second-easiest level, but about the peak of what I do) I saw. At the end of 45 minutes I was sweaty and exhausted and on a total endorphin high, and I wondered why I ever dreaded bouldering. I’m sure next time I go I’ll freak out halfway up some easy problem and remember exactly why I occasionally dread bouldering, but that’s a problem for 2012. And crossing an item off the list makes up for the giant 0 currently next to “11 one-minute planks” on my Google Doc.

2. Nothing tastes better than beer and a burger after bouldering. However, beer and a burger after bouldering on a work night may result in crashing fully clothed on top of your bed and skipping your silly fitness challenge’s 10 minutes of core work as well as other activities such as brushing your teeth and removing your contact lenses before waking up at 3 a.m. with Black Butte breath. It’s a hazard, is all I’m saying.

3. I still have not registered for any new 2012 races. On the one hand, I’m staring at two months with no particular obligations and a chance to go into the spring fully rested and fully healthy — a rarity for me. I’ve been training for one half or another since June. On the other hand, I’m ready to try and race a PR half right now, thank you very much, and I’m largely of the mind that if I want to maintain any semblance of a running base between now and the start of triathlon training, it really wouldn’t be that much harder to stay in half-marathon shape. If there were a half-marathon this weekend, I’d go race it, no question. But for some reason, when I actually have to plunk down $50 and commit to doing something in February or March, I don’t go through with it. I’m trying to remind myself that last year I didn’t register for Kaiser until I was slightly tipsy on New Year’s Eve — and I was much less prepared to run a race on four weeks’ training then than I would be now. I’m not sure what I’m saying here — decisions are best made late in the game and with a beer in hand? — but I suppose I’m leaning toward doing whatever I want between now and the 31st and then making a command decision on a race before fees go up. I feel lost without a goal, but “be healthy and rested and ready to tackle new adventures in 2012” could be a goal, too, right?

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12 Days of Christmas Challenge

A couple of weeks ago, Theodora posted about her December fitness challenge. I love a good challenge, and knowing foolishly thinking I was going to be staring down a blank spot in my training schedule, I started kicking around some ideas for my own December event. I jokingly suggested a 12 Days of Christmas theme, and the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a good idea. Or at least an amusing one.

So, it’s December 15, and I’m arbitrarily deciding that today marks the start of my 12 Days of Christmas Challenge. The idea was to come up with 12 fitness-related somethings I could do before the end of the year, then 11 something elses, and 10 and 9 and so on. (Like the song, yeah?) I wanted it to be an actual challenge — no sandbagging — but also something feasible considering holiday travel, weather at the locations of said travel, time with family and friends, desire for rest, etc.

I did not know this book existed, but now I would love to see it.

Here’s where I ended up:

12 total workouts/workout days
For these purposes, I will consider a workout to be anything more than 30 minutes of exercise.

11 one-minute planks
I should be doing more core anyway (see below), and 11 good one-minute planks over 16 days seemed doable.

10 minutes of core work per day
Yes, per day. Including on days that don’t count toward the 12. This is something I want to make a habit in 2012, so I might as well start trying now. Some days this might be serious and sweat-inducing; other days it might mean doing three sets of crunches while mostly lying on the floor watching Revenge. For now, I just want the thought and intent to be there.

9 new exercises
I’m leaving the definition of “exercises” broad: It can be a new group fitness class or a new strength training move (I bookmarked this workout a while ago but haven’t tried any of it yet). Just nine new somethings, however big or small.

8(0) minutes of strength training
That boils down to four sessions of 20 minutes each, ideally just tacked on to a time when I’m at the gym anyway. Aka, what I was doing earlier in the year before I became a strength-training slacker again.

7 climbing routes/problems finished
This probably means two trips to the climbing gym, which I’ve been desperately missing.

6 days of running
If I do this, I can sign up for any races my little heart desires.

5 morning workouts
I originally wrote this as “5 a.m. workouts” and then realized I should clarify, because hell no, this night owl does not rise at 5 a.m.

4 yoga or pilates “classes”
“Classes” in quotation marks because OnDemand/online/YouTube sessions count and thus will make this feasible while traveling.

3 workouts with friends
My New Year’s rental house posse includes two triathletes and three runners. Easy-peasy.

2 miles swimming
I’ve been told there’s a pool in Pete’s hometown that might sell day passes, but I’ve never actually gone. This should be the year I check it out.

1 long ride on Penelope
Fact: I put this here because it goes best to the tune of the song. Conveniently, it also happens to match what I think is doable. More than one ride would be great, but since Penelope doesn’t travel, this weekend is probably my last chance for a 10+-mile ride before 2012.

Except where noted, double-counting is totally legal. (Morning run with friends? Check, check, and check!) As this is the season for making lists and checking them twice — um, and as it is always the season for making lists and ticking them off in my brain — I’m looking forward to dominating this completely arbitrary, self-enforced challenge.

Are you doing any year-end challenges/running streaks/holiday-themed fitness events? Or want to join me in my nerdiness?

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