Running, Weight Lifting and Chasing Dreams

heavy weights by apfelfredLast week I ran at some unusual times for me: once at 6:30AM and once at 9:30PM. Why the strange schedules when I’ve been a fairly consistent “right after work” running gal? Well, because I am adding in something new and I wanted to check out some different options for run times. I’m adding in strength training.

Yes, I know I’ve been writing about strength training for awhile, and I’ve actually been doing it for several months now, but it’s been on my own in a somewhat haphazard fashion. Back in April, after checking it out from the library, I bought The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises. The book is great in some regards, and if you want an encyclopedia of weight training exercises, this is a solid choice. There are hundreds of exercises to chose from with all sorts of variations, depending on skill set, equipment and so on. It also has some additional information and training plans, but those are not the main point of the book. The focus is on different kinds of exercises. That was exactly why I bought it. I used it to put together some weight training plans based on what I had, and what I thought I could do.

The problem is that I am really too new at this. I have no idea what I am doing. I used their training plans as a start, but modified them at will. The book makes it really, really easy to do that. Too easy, if you want to know the truth. I felt like I was getting stronger and doing some good work, but it felt really unfocused. I knew that I just didn’t know enough.

Then I read some glowing reviews for Mark Riptoe’s Starting Strength, so I picked that up. And it’s good, it really is, but it almost goes too far in the other direction. It is so technical, I find myself struggling to get through it. I think it is just too advanced for where I am right now. I’m a reader, someone who loves to learn through study, but I had to set it aside for a bit.

Then I read another blogger who was going through The New Rules of Lifting for Women, and so I took a look at that. And like Goldilocks, I feel like I found something that is just right. It has a lot about weight lifting in general, and some interesting information on nutrition (and I have changed how I eat based on it,) but what I love is their step by step guide. It’s a long term strength training plan, which was exactly what I was looking for. Like Women’s Health book, it has exercises with variations (especially helpful for those going to gyms versus those working out at home,) and like Mark Riptoe’s book it has technical information, but fortunately, it is at my level. Best of all is the seven stage multi-week training plan.

I’ve just started on it this week. The author warns that this is an intense program, but I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure I believed him. I mean, when I read through it, it looked really reasonable and, even dare I say, in the beginning stages a bit easy. Wrong! As soon as I got through the first day, I saw that this is going to be a challenge. Which is good! That’s what I’m looking for.

My goal is to strength train at least two, but pushing towards three, times a week. I also want to keep running. In a perfect world I’d run three times a week and lift three times, on alternating days, and take one day as a rest day. I’d prefer to do the strength training in the morning, using my morning dog walk as a warm up, and the run in the evening after work, with the evening dog walk to cool down. Which makes it all so pretty and logical, doesn’t it? However, life doesn’t always let us do what we want. Sometimes I am busy in the evenings, sometimes I haven’t had enough sleep to get up early. Life just is messy. I’ve already been running into this with my current workouts, and I really want to be dedicated to this, so I thought I should try running at different times. Also, I know that as much as I would like to alternate days, there are going to be weeks where I have to do both on the same day, that means being able to be flexible.

I’ve tried a couple of runs at night to see how that goes. One night this week I wanted to go running, but I had an extremely crazy, busy, frantic day. I said to myself that if I could wrap everything up by 9:15PM, I’d head out anyway. I was done by 9:08PM, so I threw on my running clothes and was heading down the road by 9:20PM. Then I had a day where I knew I was going to need time in the evening to work on a few projects. So, I got up early and, after walking the dog, went for a run in the morning. (It was so early that when I turned on the bedroom light, my usual Let’s go out! dog sighed and rolled over and went back to sleep!) So far, I like running both in the morning and at night. I did find out I have to eat something in the morning before I go though, rather than after. I could tell I didn’t have enough fuel in me, so I took it easy. In the future I will have to plan that a bit better, but other than that, I can easily see myself doing either, and you know what that means, right? No excuses.

Wait, you are running AND lifting weights?!? Don’t you know that’s CRAZY!

There seems to be a bit of war between these two worlds right now. The best I can tell from the interwebs is that it centers around marathoners versus body builders, and I see why. You don’t want to have a lot of bulky muscle to carry around if you are running marathons, and if you’re running all your body mass off, it doesn’t make sense to lift. However, the way it comes off to those of us that are new to all this is that there are two camps, one saying “Look you idiot – don’t eat protein! Stay super lean!” while the other is saying, “Hey fool – you don’t need to run! Get rid of cardio! Here – have a protein shake!”

Here’s the thing, I want both of what these worlds offer, and I want nothing.

Why can't I have both? Power and stamina?

Look at her, I mean, WOW. So, why can’t I have both? Power and stamina?

You  know what I want? I want to be a badass superhero librarian who can run, leap, climb, lift, row, ski, hula hoop and throw a mean punch – all while wearing heels, if I want. (No, I am not a librarian at present, but we are talking about what I want, not what it is.) I am not aiming to run marathons. In fact, at this point, I’m not running to be in any races, of any length. I might some day – some of them look like a heck of a lot of fun – but that isn’t my goal. At this point, I run roughly 30-40 minutes at a time. That feels about right for me.

Nor is my goal to be a body builder or enter body competitions. I want: strength, endurance, power, stamina, and to feel great in my body. I want all the gains I have already won against my asthma with running, and also I want to see how much I can lift. This is all about me, not about competing against others, in any forum. So yes, I am running and lifting weights – and getting better at both all the time.


Heavy Weight photo credit: apfelfred on flickr

Questions to Consider

bridge by Joel BombardierMy boyfriend, Julian, is going to school for Sociology. One of the books he was assigned for class was On Being a Therapist by Jeffery Kottler. Becoming a therapist is his goal, so he really enjoyed the book, and thinking I would enjoy it as well, he passed it along. I don’t have any aspirations along this line myself, but there was a lot of good information in it and I really did find it fascinating. (Also interesting was how many people started conversations with me because they saw me reading this book. I took it with me on a trip out of town, and several people in the airport and in planes started conversations with me, thinking I was a therapist!)

One of the sections of the book that particularly caught my eye was a chapter on burnout. It gave a list of questions for therapists to consider when they’re feeling that way. This list really made me think. Although I write a lot about weight loss, the original purpose of the Long View Hill blog was to be a place to chart self discovery. It just so happens that currently part of my journey seems to be heading along the Weight Loss Super Highway. I guess you could say that in figuring out who I want to be – currently I am figuring out the “body” part of the mind body whole.

Anyway, I wanted to share the questions with you, as well as store them in my blog for my own mediation:

  • What haunts you the most, especially when you are feeling raw or vulnerable?
  • In what ways are you not functioning as fully and effectively as you could?
  • What are some aspects of your lifestyle that are especially unhealthy?
  • What are your most conflicted or chronically dysfunctional relationships?
  • Where do you hold your pain?
  • In what ways to you medicate yourself (whether with substances or with particular behaviors?)
  • What are the lies you tell yourself?
  • What do you spend your time avoiding or hiding from?
  • Who is it who most easily gets to you, and what does that mean?
  • What are unresolved issues that have plagued you throughout your life?
  • How does this affect your work?
  • What is it about these questions you find the most threatening?

Note from the book: Because self-identification of the issues stirred up by these questions is difficult, it is advisable to discuss them with a trusted friend, or better yet, bring them to your personal therapy.


Photo credit: Joel Bombardier

The Road, Part One

My boyfriend is currently rereading The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck.  He had a spare copy, so I am rereading it with him. In the first chapter we read that life is difficult and full of problems. Here’s what the Wikipedia article about it had to say:

Peck’s book begins with the profound truth that “Life is difficult” We must attest to the fact that life was never meant to be easy, and that it is nothing but a battlefield of problems. We can either moan about them or solve them.

Lonely Road

I find that very comforting.

…what? You don’t find that comforting? Well, stick with me for a moment, let’s break this down. I am not going to reiterate what the book has to say about it, I’m going to tell you why I personally find that very comforting:

If we just start by accepting the truth that life is difficult, it means it is difficult for everyone; not just me, or you, or that guy down the street. It means it is also difficult for the people we admire, our heroes, even the people who don’t seem to have any problems. Life is difficult for them too – the problems are going to be as varied as we are, but everyone has them.

And if you take that a little further, it means that your life is difficult because everyone’s life is difficult – not because you are cursed, or asked out the wrong girl or said that stupid thing in the third grade that still makes you embarrassed to think about. Beating yourself up is not going to change the fact that life is full of problems.

When I first started musing on all this, my first thought was that if life is full of problems, maybe it doesn’t really matter what choices you make – there are always going to be problems, so why try to fight it? But of course, common sense quickly ruled that out. Not making decisions doesn’t negate having problems! Some problems are easier to accept than others. Not having enough time to do the volunteer work I want to is a problem I can handle – not having a place to live is one I would rather not have.

So the goal then, is to make the best choices we can. We need to tackle the problems: acknowledge our faults and weaknesses and try constantly to get better. The important thing is that you are not alone, even if it feels that way sometimes – there are always people out there who have been through things similar, and there are people out there right now, fighting similar demons. Life is going to be hard, but there are ways to get through it.

Personally, I find that comforting.

Photo credit: carolinejoan

Simplification – What Would You Keep?

I recently read a short blog post by Tammy Strobel about simplifying her life.  This, in particular, got my attention:

As my friend Dee Williams said, “Take a moment and think about what thing you want to hold in your arms as you die. What favorite room in your house or space could accommodate that last breath?”

If we asked these questions more often, I think many of us would stay out of the mall. Remember that stuff is replaceable, people aren’t. Shift your attention toward the people you love and the experiences that make you happy.

Simplification is one of those things I struggle with.  As the date for my annual yard sale approaches, I spend a lot of time opening drawers and looking in closets for things to get rid of.  Throughout the year I add things to the yard sale pile in my basement as I come across them, but as the big weekend gets near, I tend to look for even more.  I usually find a few things, but not much.

It’s a strange thing, I know I have more than I need, but I can’t really say that “stuff” contributes to my unhappiness.  Except for a few treacherous vertical surfaces, (namely the kitchen island counter and my desk,) my house isn’t cluttered.  I am slowly accumulating a preponderance of books and magazines that is getting a touch out off control, but really, if having too many books is a problem, my life is pretty good.

I like the idea of only having the things that mean the most to you – but I also like having a well stocked kitchen so I can easily prepare delicious foods for myself and my family.  Do I really need a Kitchen Aid mixer?  Will I want to die with my muffin pans in my arms?  No, of course not.  But does the act of making homemade blueberry lemon muffins make me happy?  You bet.  While I certainly don’t need all the books I own, especially in this age of electronic e-readers, does having them make me feel good?  Yep.  I’m not sure I am comfortable with how they are starting to accumulate throughout my house in stacks and piles on every surface, but on the other hand, it is always how I imagined I would live.

The second question in the quote: What favorite room in your house or space could accomodate your last breath, now there is something there to ponder.  My house is presently in transition.  For the last few years I have been transforming it into a place that I enjoy, but it still has a ways to go, honestly.  I like the idea of looking at each room with new eyes – asking myself if I had only a short time left, what would I want to see?  What would it take to make me happy?  Does it mean getting rid of somethings?  Does it mean getting something new?  The picture on the wall that my mother gave me – yes, it works, but should I replace it with something that is actually meaningful… rather than just something that was free?

It seems so easy to decide to redo a house or a room.  I see it done on tv in less than a half hour all the time.  The reality is different, however, and that is where I need to be patient with myself.  I’ve been working on my upstairs bedroom for over a year.  It’s taken so long not because I am lazy or uninspired, but because I have been incredibly busy with work and volunteering.  It takes time to paint, fix, redo.  It also takes time to shop and find “just the right thing.”  It also, honestly, takes money.

Somewhere in all this is a middle ground that is right for me.  I picture clean, uncluttered rooms (with maybe a few books scattered around.)  I see organized closets and cupboards, but stocked with the things I use regularly.  I see rooms that have colors that are pleasing to my eye and furniture that is a huge mix of styles and ages – but all functional and comfortable.  I want a home that is tidy, but not so severe that you can’t kick your shoes off and relax.  I don’t want empty spaces, but I do want ones that I could spend my last days in.  It isn’t something I am going to be able to do overnight, but it’s something I am going to spend a bit more time thinking about.

True Rules

In The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin talks about “True Rules.”  According to her, True Rules are the little personal rules we all make to get through life.  I think of them as sort of a personal code of conduct.  They are what we use to make decisions on a day to day basis; and so engrained in our psyche that we don’t even think about them anymore.  They aren’t always logical, nor do they always make things easier, but they do exist.

I read about her True Rules last week while traveling for business.  I couldn’t get the idea out of my head and started thinking about my own.  I thought I would try to put together a list of some of them:

When in Rome – eat what the locals eat.  This is a big one for me since i do a lot of traveling, but it is also true for dining in my hometown.  I try to go to places I haven’t gone before and order the items off the menu that have I’ve never eaten before.  If I haven’t even heard of it before, all the better!

When you are going somewhere new, always give yourself more time to drive somewhere than you need to.  Okay, this has resulted in me being fairly early, fairly often, but has also saved my butt more times than not.  On the other side though, I get really twitchy if I am running late and can drive the people with me a bit nuts.

When traveling, dress up a bit.  You never know when your luggage isn’t going to arrive with you and you are going to have to give a seminar in what you traveled in.  So far, (knock on wood,) I have never had to test this out.  I do think, however, that I do get better service from airlines and other personal when I am dressed for business, so that makes it worthwhile.

Keep your lawn mowed.

Don’t pry.  If someone wants to tell you something, they will.  This one has backfired on me more than once – especially when what I considered prying was someone else’s version of showing that I care.

Overdress.  This goes along with the one about traveling in dress clothes.  When you are unsure of the dress code – being overdressed is more socially acceptable than being underdressed.  (Although I am starting to wonder if this one is true anymore.)

Write it down.  I’m a big fan of todo lists and notes to myself.

Tidy room = tidy mind.  I feel more calm in a clean house. Unfortunately, the flip side of this coin is that it becomes a source of stress when I don’t have time to clean and things get cluttered.  I am far more anxious about it than I should be.

You have a responsibility to complete your commitments.  True, but a major source of stress when I say “yes” to something I am unsuited for.  I have painted myself into several corners this way.

Make your bed.  (Hmmm… pretty sure I forgot to do this one today.)

The best defense, is a closed mouth.  AKA if you don’t have anything to say… shut up.  Sometimes I can be way too chatty, but when it comes to things that matter, I tend to keep my cards close to the vest.  I share my real self with only a select few people.

I know there are a lot more of these, but they are so instinctive they are hard to pin down.  I’ll keep thinking about them and add more to this list as I think of them.  What I would like to do is take a look at some of these and see if they are really helping me in my life, or if it is time to let a few things go.