On my Fitness

Today marks exactly four weeks post marathon. I’ve had a lot of you ask what I think my next fitness or running goal might be, and the truth is, I am still trying to figure that out. Running a marathon was such a big feat for me, it was something I had wanted to accomplish for so long. Now that it’s been done, it’s hard to think what can top it–and be interesting enough to share with all of you.

Although I may dip my toe in the marathon pond another time, I feel like I’ve learned that I have absolutely no interest in going beyond that distance. I am amazed by ultra runners and love reading their stories–I’m captivated by what drives them. Still, I have no desire to join their ranks. I’m grateful to my body that it held up so well during training, and I am willing to do the work to have the strength and flexibility I need to participate in these events once in a while. But after this whole experience, I feel like I have really been able to confirm to myself that my body was not made to run marathons all the time. This does not bum me out in the least. It actually makes me think it’s even more awesome that I have been able to accomplish what I have. More than that though, it’s just made me aware of how much I love and appreciate my body, and how I don’t want to force it into submission.

After four full days of complete rest after my 26.2, I went for a run with my hubs. It was Veterans day, and it just happened to be the only really cold day we’ve had so far. I was watching our mileage on my watch. We had agreed upon a slow and easy 3-4 miles. We ended up doing a little over 7 and for this I blame myself, and the weather. I felt pretty good and my body was finally getting warm so I wanted to keep going, which meant we were going further and further out. When I finally made us turn around, we were quite a distance from our apartment. On any other day, we would have had the option of walking all or part of the distance back. But as many of you know, one of the things about cold weather running is once you stop, you freeze. Since I can’t stand the cold, we had to keep going. Consequently, my whole body and my knees especially started barking at me. This is what they said:

What the hell? We did everything you asked. We have hung in there for you. You promised we would get some rest and you wouldn’t push us for a while. Should we not trust you? I thought we were taking care of each other, I thought we could trust each other.

At the end of that run, I literally talked back to my body out loud. I told it how sorry I was, and that it was right. I reiterated to it what I had many times during training and during and after the race which was how grateful I was for it, and how proud I was to be the soul it was carrying through this life. I thanked it, and assured it over and over that it could in fact trust me, and promised that I would listen to it, and follow what it tells me it needs to look, feel, and perform at it’s best. I felt lucky that we had massages planned later on that day; I think that helped ease some of the distrust between my body and I that was brought up by the premature cold 7 mile run.

Rather than set any firm goals for 2018, right now, I am just trying to work to get my body back to a happy place. As many of you read in an earlier post , while marathon training left me with the best aerobic endurance I have ever had in my life, I was not thrilled with the way it made my body look and feel. While the maintenance of my strength training throughout undoubtedly aided in preventing any injuries, the shorter lifting sessions and longer mileage softened the muscle tone I had worked so hard to achieve the year before. I’d like to get that tone back, and also get my body feeling spry again. I want to feel the bounce and the flexibility that’s been missing since I loaded up the miles and cut down to one yoga class a week. Here’s what I am doing now and how I plan to finish out the rest of the year:

Monday: Rest. One thing I took from training and am keeping is a real emphasis on quality rest. For years I worked out 6 days a week. It wasn’t until marathon training that I learned that my body works better when not in a constant state of fatigue. The extra rest day not only provides me with another morning writing session each week, it also improves my performance in my workouts through the seven days.

Tuesday: Strength training + 3-5 mile interval run. I am getting back to committing an ample amount of time to strength training and being able to focus on the details makes all the difference. My push-up game is still pretty strong but before I started training, I was able to do almost 2 complete unassisted pull-ups. I’ve lost that now and can barely lift my body weight up at all. I’m alright with that being the temporary price I had to pay to complete the marathon, but now I am determined to get that strength back. 26.2 miles is badass, but so are muscle gains.

Wednesday: 90 minute Bikram Yoga class. As many of you read, my new studio  is really working out well. Although I loved my old studio, I am now getting the type of instruction that’s really been missing from my practice for years. In each class I am taking in all sorts of corrections and also encouragement. This second class each week used to be the norm for me, but had to fall by the wayside during training when I’d have to get in up to 10 miles on a Wednesday before work. From the moment I step into that heat in the morning and for the rest of the day after class, I hear my body cooing, yes, more of that, that’s what we want. My knees, my achilles, my hamstrings, they all seem to be singing in unison and I’m happy and grateful to know the yoga is working it’s restorative magic.

Thursday: Strength train + 3-5 mile interval run. I use the circuit strength training method which means that instead of completing one set of one exercise, resting in between, and repeating, I complete one set of an exercise and quickly move to the next with little to no rest in between. I find this method to be more time efficient, and also more effective, I start to see gains rather quickly. This time around I am committing to including 2-3 core exercises in every one of my circuits. I tend to get impatient with core training but from so much of what I’ve read, it’s essential to preventing injuries, relieving back pain, and strengthening other aerobic activities, like running. I’m putting in the work now and anxious to see if my dedication yields the intended results. Another note on these Tuesday and Thursday workouts: they are my favorite. I know some runners hate the treadmill but I can love it just as much as running outside, especially when I am working the intervals. I am finally getting back into speed-work and I am quite certain that at least for now, that is my happy place. I’m getting a monstrous sweat during these sessions. The running is fun and it feels great to remember that I don’t need to go for hours and hours; I can get a glorious runner’s high when I bust my ass for 30-45 minutes.

Friday: Rest. Rest day #2! Again, this has been a recuperative practice that I plan on keeping. Sometimes I forgo the writing time on this morning to instead get an extra AA meeting in. If I go to zero meetings in a week, life sucks, the world is doomed, and I’m pretty unbearable company for both my coworkers and my husband. If I get in one meeting a week, I am content and reasonably happy with life, I have hope for the world, and I’m able to be a fairly tolerant and compassionate coworker and partner. When I get two meetings in a week–watch out. Two meetings usually means no matter what darkness (or tax bill) comes around, I am usually able to see the light. I’m content and happy. I am not only hopeful about the state of the world, but also optimistic. I am able to joyously make choices and act in a way that benefits others more than it serves my own interests. I don’t know why this shit works, but after over 9 years, I’ve stopped asking. I just go.

Saturday: 90 minute Bikram Yoga class. The weekend class I get to go to with my hubs is one of the highlights of my week. Not only am I getting in the curative work that my body needs, I get quality time with my partner and get to be wowed by how much he is progressing in his own practice. His yoga journey inspires mine. Watching him make his way into poses he didn’t even know how to approach before is an incredible motivation. It reminds me that there is always more to learn and room to grow, and that excites me.

Sunday: 6-10 mile run. My long run day. Blah. Yeah, that’s what I have to say about this run right now. Blah. Before this morning I would have written that this day gets an average of an 8-10 mile run, but I got so bored this AM and stopped at 6, so I had to get honest and widen that average. I want to keep about a half-marathon’s worth of long distance endurance going so that is why I am keeping a longish run in for now, but I have to admit, I am not loving it. I am trying to give myself a break-I am sure the love-loss can all be attributed to the hundreds of miles I have run in the past few months. Also, the cold weather is not helping. I really think my African blood is dominant in me in this sense. So much of me feeling good in a workout is my body getting warm and loose and being able to get a good healthy sweat. While I still perspire a fair amount in the cold, my body never gets as warmed up and flexible as it needs to to maintain a nice fluid stride. We’ll see if I continue to tough it out outdoors the whole winter or if I bring it inside for some longer slogs on the treadmill.

I just want to give one last quick update in regards to how I am doing applying sort of a 12-step model to my body issues. As many of you know, although I have not participated in any eating disordered behaviors in several years, I recently stated how I am still dissatisfied with the state of my recovery. The negative voices in my head in regards to my body that society has told me are normal to live with, have become unacceptable to me. I want to conquer my body dysmorphia and be able to see myself clearly. I’d like to honor what my body can accomplish but also understand that these feats are not a consolation prize. I don’t want to have to cross finish lines to love my body. I want to genuinely be able to love how it looks, even though it doesn’t match what society says I should be striving for. I’ve erased my name from the pact we all seemed to have signed that says no matter what, we all have to remain at least a little dissatisfied with the way we look. I’m exhausted with this model, I want something new.

Over the past few weeks I’ve done two things that have made a significant difference so far. Because I know it’s very difficult for me to see my own body clearly, I asked my husband if he would promise to discuss it with me if I ever start to put on an actual significant amount of weight. He agreed. I thought this was a good place for me to start. I am extremely active and I eat really well, so the only way I would ever gain a really significant amount of weight is if something was really wrong, emotionally or physically. In that case, I would want him to bring it up so we could talk about it and tackle the issue. That aside, I want to start practicing eliminating the discussion of my weight gain and loss, because it’s quite frequent–it fluctuates all the time but often says very little about how my body looks or how I should feel. For almost all of my life this talk has been automatic. I’ll skip dessert when I feel fat or indulge when I feel skinny. As long as I’m healthy, I’d like to stop verbally connecting weight gain or loss to the way I feel, and see if if might improve my psyche at all. So far, the change has been positive.

The other thing I’ve done over the past couple weeks is really simple, but I know it won’t be for everyone. Every time I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and am disappointed by what I see as a bulge or imperfection, or every time I walk in the hall of my office and think, I wish my thighs didn’t rub together, I recite the first three steps of the 12-step model (adjusted for my personal use) in my head:

1. We admitted we were powerless over our body image- that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of that higher power, however we understand it

I don’t know why it works. But it does.

Now that we are in the homestretch, who’s got fitness goals to finish out the year? Anyone’s goal to try to take it a little easier or rest more, like me? How about those body image issues? Any particular anxieties coming up as we approach the holidays? Do you often feel like the state of your body (your current weight or muscle tone or fitness level) affects your overall happiness? Are happy moments ever less happy because you are unhappy with how you look? Is that something you want to change? I know I’m asking a lot–I want to hear it all! x





header: jason briscoe