A Little More Motivation Over Here, Please! Yeah, That’d Be Great.

Run SeventeenKeep moving

I’ve had a lot of weird little things happen so far on my running journey. This was not one of those days, but it was a day that taught me something.

For Run Seventeen I headed over to River Park, tightened my shoes, and away I went. It was a hot day, but there was a good breeze coming off the water. Other than the heat, it was a good day and there were a lot of people using the park. I decided to mix it up a little by taking a couple of different little routes I hadn’t run before. All that went fine, but I couldn’t quite get into it. How do describe this? It wasn’t really bad… it just didn’t feel right either.

I was doing intervals, and the timing and everything went fine, but I just kind of out of it. Afterwards, I sat in the grass near my car and tried to figure out what went wrong. Ultimately I decided that nothing went wrong, it was just a “meh” kind of run. And you know what? That’s okay.

It is bound to happen. Like life, when it comes to runs there will be good days, great days, lousy days, and yes, some “meh” days. The point is to keep moving forward.

I’ll take a rest day or two, get some good sleep, eat some healthy meals, and then, I’ll try it again. I am not letting one off day change my goals or motivation one bit!

Getting Older, Getting Stronger


Talk about tough. I love this photo.

There are some days, I am not very motivated. I want to be excited about working out and running, but sometimes I’m just not feeling it. But recently I got a quick reminder of why what I am doing is important.

A few days ago I was wandering through the fitness section of our local mega-store and spotted a dumbbell sitting on the clearance rack. It was a Reebok 20 pound hand weight. It was really nice, and on clearance for 50% off. (They’ve apparently changed styles.) I’ve been buying my home weight collection a bit at a time as needed. I’m not up to 20 pounds yet, and they only had one, but I figured it was too good of a deal to pass up. I thought I might be able to find its mate at another mega-store, or I could use it for single weight exercises.

A day or so later I went back to the mega-store to pick up something else completely unrelated. Since I was there though, I thought I would wander back to the fitness section… just in case. And what did I spy?? Another identical weight! It wasn’t on the clearance rack, it was tucked away on a different shelf with the regularly priced weights. It also didn’t have an official price sticker, obviously someone had bought it and returned it or something, and the store staff had just jotted down the UPC and taped it on. The price wasn’t even on it, so I didn’t know if I would get the clearance deal, but I figured I couldn’t really lose.

I brought it up to the sales counter and placed it on the conveyor belt. The checkout woman couldn’t seem to find the UPC. I tried to tell her it was on the front, but when she still seemed to be having problems, I picked it up and moved it so she could see it. I paid for my purchases and then realized the problem… she couldn’t lift the weight. She was trying to get it off the scanner and give it to me, but couldn’t pick it up – even with two hands! She wasn’t that old, maybe late 50s or early 60s, and she works at the check out – I would think that she had to deal with ridiculously heavy things all day long, like bags of dog food and giant jugs of laundry detergent. I might have passed it off to carpal tunnel or arthritis, but when I picked it up she exclaimed, “You just picked that up like it was nothing! 20 pounds is a lot to me!” and she was laughing.

It wasn’t nothing, 20 pounds is a fairly substantial amount, but I carried it easily (along with my other purchases) out to my car – not using a cart. While I was walking, I was thinking about the clerk. This is a woman who stands all day long, lifting and moving items, and yet, she couldn’t lift a 20 pound weight. A voice inside my head said:

This is why you are working out.

My mother has very little upper body strength. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to lift boxes out of her car or carry things up or down her stairs for her. Things that didn’t seem all that heavy to me. I don’t want this to happen to me.

I believe in that old saw “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” I’m only 39, but I work in a mostly sedentary job and could very easily live sedentary life. I am making choices right now about building my strength, getting more fit and building my stamina not just to feel good and feel better today, but because I want to do what I can to feel good for the next 40 years.

I love this woman.

Pure inspiration right here.

The Kayak of Happiness

Happiness. Orange happiness.

Happiness. Orange happiness.

This is my kayak. I took this shortly after I pulled it up on the shore. …and I wish I were on it right now.

My first time out was on Sunday afternoon. I admit, I was being a bit of a wimp at first. It was rather chilly and there was a stiff breeze – jeans and a long sleeve shirt kind of weather – not “let’s go out on the lake” weather. I was sitting down by the water, ostensibly reading a book, but really deciding if I had the guts to get out there… when I noticed how many kids were in the water. Kids are tough and they will go out in anything, but was I really going to let a bunch of eight year olds show me up? Finally, I put the book down and decided it was time.

Honestly, I was also a little nervous. I haven’t been in a one person kayak since 2004. Still, there wasn’t really a lot to lose. My lake is roughly 3′ deep (or less) in most place and it only gets really deep towards the middle, which was not where I was headed! I’m a great swimmer and I was going to be wearing a life vest, so the only thing possibly at risk was my dignity. I lost that once before – the first time I tried to use a rowboat, actually – so I wasn’t afraid of that.

I put my book away, put on clothes that could get a little wet, and cut the plastic wrap off my new kayak. The minute I got out onto the water I thought, “YES!” Immediate pure happiness washed over me. I was grinning like a maniac as I paddled around.

Eastern Snapping Turtle

Why hello there!

The lake was beautiful. It took me about 40 minutes to get all the way around the lake. I saw herons, fish, and big snapping turtle that swam right underneath my kayak. I kept thinking, “I wish my lake were larger!” When waves picked up or the wind started to blow, I thought, “Good! Bring it on!” None of this is my nature. It was so awesome though. I just wanted the ride to go on as long as possible.

I will also say this – I definitely noticed a difference between the first time out on my own, and the first time in my two person kayak. On that first trip, by a third of the way around my lake, my shoulders were aching and I was worn out. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it – and I had another person to help paddle! This time, on my own, I kicked butt. Working out and lifting weights has made a huge difference. I went around once and could have easily gone around again. Oh, and did I mention I had spent 2 hours raking and another hour weed whacking a bit earlier the same day?

The next day, the same thing. I put in a few hours raking and weed whacking (much-needed spring clean up) and then got out the kayak and hit the water. The weather was worse. Gray, cold, and windy. Even the kids had packed it up and stayed inside. Me? I was out on the kayak.

Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke

I Bought Myself a Present!

I love you orange kayak.

I love you orange kayak.

I decided it was time to reward myself for all the hard work I have been doing – the weight loss, the running and lifting weights. I’ve changed a lot about myself, not just physically, but my attitude and mental outlook as well. I decided it was time to get something to celebrate that. I bought a kayak.

I don’t remember if I have mentioned it on this blog before, but I own a cabin. It is just a little place up the woods located on a small lake. I’ve had the two person version of this kayak for years, but have been wanting the one person for almost as long. Why haven’t I bought one before? Well, I don’t transport my kayak – it stays up at the cabin, so I don’t own a roof rack or anything like that. I also drive a somewhat obscure hatchback, and finding racks that will work with it has been tough. So, the first problem has been simply transporting a 10′ kayak to the lake.

The other problem was money. For awhile after my divorce I had to be very, very frugal. A kayak just wasn’t in the budget. It’s seemed like every time I thought about buying one, something else popped up – something that required money. Usually a house repair project that couldn’t be avoided. Recreational kayaks like these aren’t terribly expensive, but when your toilet is flooding your cabin, other things have to take priority.

I’ll be completely honest with you, there is one other reason. I didn’t even admit it to myself until I thought about writing this post. I think I have been afraid of buying a kayak. With a two person, I always had someone with me to bail me out if I got in trouble. I never felt like I wouldn’t be able to menuever it or get it around the lake. In a one person, I’d be on my own. I’ve been scared that I didn’t have the strength to do it on my own – both mentally and physically, so I let the other challenges (transportation and money) keep me from moving ahead on it, even though it has meant that I haven’t been out on my own lake in a long, long time.

Things are different now. I am stronger. My mind, my body, my shoulders, my arms – I feel confident to power this kayak around the lake. I’ve also been taking more risks lately. I’ve been getting out there figuring out how to run. Having done that, I’m not as afraid of making a fool out of myself. If it happens, it happens. I am okay with that.

In fact, instead of being afraid of being out there alone, I am excited about the challenge.

Rather be kayaking

Hey! This Whole “Working Out” Thing Seems to be Working

Run Seventeen

A representation of the view from my driveway.

A representation of the view from my driveway.

I’ve been really, really busy lately and so certain things have fallen by the wayside. In particular – I have been ignoring my lawn. See, last year we had a drought. Without water (and I don’t care enough about my landscaping to actually water it,) grass does not grow. Grass that doesn’t grow, doesn’t need to be mown. I think I ended up mowing my lawn four times max. last year.

This year we have had rain… and more rain…. and more rain. So much rain we’ve had flooding. And despite the fact my dog is doing his best to urinate in every spot on the lawn and kill it for me, the grass continues to grow. In fact, the urine seems to insure that the grass that grows is a mutant weed variety that is tough as nails and grows three times as fast as regular grass. It had gotten to the point where my lawn was starting to resemble a field of corn more than a lawn and small children were getting lost in it. Even though my embarrassment was growing by the day, I had no time mow!

Finally, I did the only thing left… I took a half day off from work. But before I put on my pith helmet and grabbed my machete to do battle with the lawn, I decided to treat myself: to a run.* I also treated myself with a new park. You know that I am always looking to go someplace new – it keeps things interesting. This particular park, which we will call Township Park (because actually that is its name,) is fairly close to my office. It has a really nice picnic and playground area and gets really busy with kids and families. I figured, though, that the walking trails wouldn’t be too bad in the middle of the day.

I was right – while the park itself was fairly busy, the walking trails weren’t bad at all. Mostly they were being used by local office workers who were out getting a few laps in on their lunch hour. My training guide had me doing 1 minute intervals for 26 minutes. The day was sunny, but there was a nice breeze and the trails were going to be mostly in the woods where it was shady.

Now, there was one thing about Township Park that I hadn’t taken into consideration – there were hills. Not the really steep hills of the other day, but long steady ones. I pretty quickly realized that running up and down a hill or two for fun is a whole different ball of wax from running hills regularly for a half hour. Wow – I felt it! I made it, though I admit: the last ten minutes I was struggling. I kept thinking things like “Eight minutes left, that means only 4 more minutes of running left! C’mon!”

Afterwards though, I felt great. Okay, I was a sweaty mess, but I felt really good. I walked back to my car, toweled down a bit, and grabbed my water bottle and sat in the grass for awhile. Even though I was tired – I wasn’t as worn out as I have been in the past. I actually could tell that I am getting a little stronger and building my endurance! Awesome!

Later, I went home and went to work on the yard. I was using the weed whacker, and happened to glance down at my arms… and my forearms totally caught me by surprise. I saw muscles I have never seen before! I spent 80 minutes working on the yard (and its a post stamp sized lawn – I told you it was long!) and again, when I was done, I was hot and sweaty, but not completely exhausted. In fact, I ended up taking the dog for a walk afterwards.

You have to understand, last year just mowing the lawn would have been enough to cause me to collapse. I would have spent the rest of the day in a lawn chair with a cold beverage There is no way I could have ever dreamed of going for a run first, then mowing, then walking the dog, and finally hopping in the shower and then heading to a Board meeting! When I starting losing weight, and even when I started running, it was more about health than anything else. I was also looking to look a little more fit. I was not expecting this kind of energy though. I love it! In fact, the energy alone might be worth every bit of effort I have put in.


Photo credit: ReneS

* When did a run become a treat?!? Who have I become?!?

When Did I Become This Girl?

who you areI try not to run two days in a row, but lately my weeks have been incredibly busy, which means that occasionally the only open times I have for running are on back to back days. The first time this happened, I ran several days in a row and each day progressively sucked a bit more. This next time when it happened, I decided to be a little smarter and do a power walk instead.

I had to drop off some things at a nearby college campus for my freelance work, and while I was there, I decided to walk the campus. It’s a gorgeous place – the college buildings are in a lovely wooded park setting. There are both paved and unpaved walking trails throughout it. A fair number of people from the neighborhood go there to walk.

I don’t know my way around the campus at all, but it isn’t terribly big, so I just took off walking, just picking routes at random. My only goal was to walk as fast as a could, with occasional short burst of running when I felt like it. I was on an unpaved trail and came up upon a steep hill where the path was covered in gravel. I took one look at it – and decided to run up it! I got to the top feeling pretty good. As I followed the trail around, the path became paved, and then I found the downhill segment. It was even steeper – so steep I wondered how students made it up in the winter. I ran down it, feeling like I was flying!

The trail then wound around, and after a moment, I found myself back at the gravel hill. Then do you know what I did?

I turned around, went back the way I came – just so that I could run up that super steep paved hill and then down the gravel one! Half way up the hill I thought, “When did I become this girl?”

I have always been someone who hated the idea of sports, gym, exercise… all that stuff. (You can read all about why here.) More than once I swore that the only way I would ever run is if someone was chasing me… and even then, they had better be darn serious about it. Now, here I am, not only choosing to run, but deliberately choosing to run up hills! It wasn’t even part of my training program. I just did it… you know, for fun.

There have been several of those, “Wait, did I just do that?” moments lately. Here’s another example: for many years I have refused to wear shorts, or even short skirts actually. It isn’t because I hated my legs; even at my heaviest, I had nice, slim legs. And that was the problem – whenever I wore something that showed off my legs even a little I got compliments on them, usually that went something like, “Wow! You have such skinny little legs!” I had a pretty classic “apple” body type, and I was very aware of how they looked compared to the rest of me. More than once I have said that I looked like an egg on toothpicks – with laughter – but still.

That isn’t true anymore. And last week? I bought running shorts. I didn’t even think about it really. I just did it. I also recently bought jean shorts, a short jean skirt, capris and some cropped pants for walking. None of these things have ever before been in my wardrobe. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been pining for them or anything – I can rock a long skirt like no ones’ business – in fact, I always said I hated these kinds of clothes. And I meant it.

And now… I’ve changed my mind. I like them. More important, I like them on me.

It’s had to do with the weight loss and the running combined. Not only do I feel better and have more energy, I am far more ready to try running up a hill, or clothes I wouldn’t have wore, or anything really. I am a lot more open and I have a lot more confidence that I can do whatever I want to do.

Who do you want to be?


Promise Kept

Run Sixteen

I didn't have a photo for this post so I bring you these spring flowers instead. (Photo credit: El Frito)

I didn’t have a photo for this post so I bring you these spring flowers instead. (Photo credit: El Frito)

I did what I set out to do. I swore I wouldn’t run in my neighborhood again – and I didn’t!

I may not swear off running in my own neighborhood for ever, but I am finding as a newbie runner that I am so much happier out at a park. I am more productive and less frustrated. I only ran in my neighborhood on the weekends because it seemed so easy: just slip on the shoes and go. But it wasn’t easy, it was aggravating. I need the mental stimulation a change of scenery can provide.

Well, I stuck to my promise; for Run Sixteen I was tempted to run at home, but I got my butt in my car and headed over to River Park instead! Turns out it’s within 10 minutes of home – and the short drive was totally worth it.

It was cold and windy, the kind of day I am growing to love for running. It was fairly early in the morning and the only other people out and about were runners like myself. My running plan had me doing 20 minutes of 1 minute intervals, plus I always start with a 5 minute warm up walk, just to make sure the gear is all in place, the shoes feel good and so on. Total time out was 26 minutes.

I had a great run, after a while I warmed up and the cold didn’t bother me at all. I actually ran the best time I’ve ever run. Granted, it is still too early for me to worry much about speed, but I can’t help but at least look at see how I did.

So, the plan is to keep going – keep going to new places, keep trying new things. It seems to be working so far!

Don’t Mind Me… Or My Pants

And Round! By Lachlan Hardy

I may just need a set of suspenders like these.

Run Fifteen

As I have mentioned, Spring in the Midwest is a time for unpredictable temperatures. (To say the least.) Run Fifteen took place on a cold, wet, rainy day. A day so cold that occasionally there were snowflakes in between the raindrops. In other words, just a plain nasty day.

But the truth is, I like running in cold weather. Somewhere I read that while running, your body feels roughly 20 degrees warmer than the air temperature. It was a tip to help plan on how to dress for runs. I don’t know if it is right or not, but I would far rather have cold hands than sweat running down my face. (Lucky me – I’m going to get both!)

I drove over to Creek Park. I’ve written about Creek Park before; as the moniker I have given it implies, it is a nice little park alongside a creek. The place gets crazy busy in nice weather, but tends to be pretty quiet in bad weather. (Well, I suppose most parks are quiet when it is cold and terrible outside.) It has a nice long loop of a running/walking trail that I like. The goal for the run was to do my very first 1/1 intervals, (one minute run/one minute walk) and Creek Park seemed like a good spot to go.

It was pretty quiet, except for a large group of high schoolish aged young men and some coaches running baseball drills in the center of the park. Since they weren’t on the trail, they didn’t bother me. I did a five-minute warm up walk and then started in. And… that’s when I started to feel it. My running pants were heading south!!

Why do I have so many running related wardrobe malfunctions??

Seriously, it is silly! Now, no one was going to see anything. I was wearing tights under my running pants, (which is probably why they were able to slip down!) The problem was more that I needed to hike them up, and of course, I was right next to the guys practicing their batting. Let’s be honest, there ain’t nothing subtle about a runner hiking up her drawers! I managed to get the waistband shoved up under my running belt, and then headed over to the parking lot. My running belt holds my phone and car keys and is pretty secure. In the lot (away from prying eyes) I readjusted everything the best I could. Then it was time to take off again!

Fortunately, it worked out. I was able to run the rest of my intervals without losing any clothing or any other crazy mishaps. I LOVED doing the 1/1 intervals. I feel so much closer to being “there” – a real runner! Awesome.

Next step – buy another set of running pants, a size (or two) smaller!


Photo credit: Lachlan Hardy

Almost Foiled by Mother Nature

frog in mud puddle by shansby

This guy thought the trails were just fine.

Run Fourteen

I’m a planner. I tend to be very organized and thorough. So, given that, it is amazing the number of things that go wrong on my runs! All I can do is laugh.

So, my dream goal is to trail run. I’ve been focusing on the “run” portion, and I thought it was time to take on the “trail.” There is a park I have had my eye on to try for quite sometime. I don’t really know what the park is like, it is completely wooded, but it is close enough to my office that I have driven over there and eaten lunch there in my car. (Don’t knock it – lunch in the car at a nice park with the windows rolled down beats eating at my desk any day!) I was usually wearing heels, so I hadn’t explored it myself, but I had seen runners and hikers there. For Run 14, I thought I would give it a try.

It started perfect, big broad unpaved trails through the woods. There were people there, but spaced out enough that it wasn’t too crowded. As I rounded a bend in the trail, I saw a woman walking towards me with a medium-sized fluffy white dog.  Well, the dog’s back was fluffy and white, its legs were soaked and covered in thick mud. The dog looked very happy. The owner, less so.

“Looks like someone found something fun!” I commented, nodding toward the dog.

“Oh, just wait. You’ll see.” she responded, rather cryptically.

After a bit, I started to see what she meant: puddles, big ones, right in the middle of the trail. Then mud, lots of mud. I tried to keep going, I mean, that’s one of the hazards of trail running, right? But then I saw it – the river had taken over the park and turned it into a swamp.

I’ve mentioned before that there is a river flowing through my fair city. Well, you might have heard that back in April there was a fair amount of flooding throughout the Midwest. Flooding takes a long time to go down, and it’s spring, so we are still getting regular rain. Because I had never walked these trails before, I didn’t realize how close to the river the park was. It was so close that now it was completely in the river. There was no going around it, and no going forward.

I wasn’t very far into my run at all. As I made my way back, I tried to figure out what to do. There was one side path, but it lead straight back to the river. Then, not far from the parking lot, I saw it: a picnic area. It was a fairly large area, not particularly well mowed, but not that bad either. It was big enough to be a track… and that’s what it became. I was running 1 minute intervals that day, and it took me about two minutes to get around – one running, one walking. Granted, I felt a little silly, but it was better than packing up and trying to go somewhere else, or worse yet, giving up!

Plus there are some advantages to track style running. I was able to pick out little landmarks and work at beating my own pace for each minute, and I found myself slipping into a nice zone. Sometimes, you just have to make things work the best you can.

I’ll hit that park again this summer when everything dries up. I still want to check out those trails!

Photo credit: shansby