Tag Archives: yoga

Whence Comes the Energy Redux

24 Jul

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That is a picture of Lake Michigan, taken during my run this morning. My first solo run since the first week of July. And it’s hard for me to even count that early July run as an actual run because it was too short and I had to stop every block for traffic and I felt like crap and it was raining, etc… Honestly, I haven’t been running for almost six weeks now. The last time I logged anything into Training Peaks was, I think, the first week of June. Sorry, Coach.

I went out on Sunday with a friend who is, like me, just getting back into the swing of things after taking some time off. He ran a 200 mile Ragnar last month and needed some time to get his legs and mind back. He was the perfect person to go out with for an easy trot. He’s an obviously experienced runner, born of a family chock-full of running phenoms (his uncle held a world record for the fastest 10k run by, like, an 8-year-old boy or some such craziness) and I could tell that on any other day, if we were both in peak condition, he’d have made me work. Hard. But it wasn’t any other day. It was Sunday. After a long rest period. And we were both happy with an easy, conversational pace and a pleasant 40 minutes along the lakefront.

I had no plans to run this morning but the minute I woke up, I felt the urge. And not only the urge, but also the ability. As in: I felt like I had the power to get up, get dressed and go for a run. The flesh was willing and the mind was strong. Anyone who has ever been active for any length of time knows that it’s a boon when the body and mind are in sync. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes your mind is OK but you’re body is wiped. Sometimes your body is fine but your mind is like, “Fuck you. It’s 5AM and it’s raining. We are staying in bed.” In either of these instances, it’s normally possible for one to override the other and you get up and you get out and you do your thing.

But when both mind and body go AWOL, it’s really hard to motivate. This has happened to me before. Actually it happens more regularly than I think I’ve ever been willing to admit. And most of the time, I muscle through. Why? Because…

Because?

Because I fear what will happen if I don’t. Which is what? Probably nothing. Nobody has money riding on whether or not I’m going to place at the next sprint tri on Key Biscayne. I muscle through because I fear what others will think of me if I don’t. Maybe people will think I’m weak. Maybe people will think I’m lazy. Maybe people will think I’m not a good athlete. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Who Gives a Fuck?

Obviously I do. Or I have. In the (not so distant) past. So for the last month, I’ve been trying to worry less about what my not-training “means” to other people (and I’ve been through enough therapy to know that, at the end of the day, it means NOTHING to other people) and more about what I can do to feel better. So I went to see this acupuncturist/chiropractor/herbal doctor and settled on a plan to eat clean, take a boat-load of supplements, sleep when my body was telling me to sleep, and focus on being a playwright. So far so good. Ish.

When I woke up this morning and felt the desire to run, I couldn’t fight it. I’ve been listening to my body about other shit, so why not listen to it when it asked me to move? I wanted to run. And that made me happy. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten out of the house so quickly. I was up and out the door in about seven minutes. Just enough time to pee, dress, strap on my Garmin and go. I ran pretty much the same route my friend and I had run on Sunday. Down towards the lake and then along the lakefront and then back. Right around 4 miles. And that felt fine.

For the last, oh, two years, every time I’ve gone out for a run, I’ve had some kind of time and/or pace goal in mind. 10 minute warmup then 1 mile build to lowest point of zone 5, then 1.5 miles all out, then cool down to zone 2. Or 30min at 10K pace + 15 seconds. Or 90 minutes in HR Z1-2 NO ZONE 3! This morning, my goal was to go out and enjoy running. Funny how goals change.

But now I’m on the couch, under a blanket, with my laptop on my legs, writing this blog post, feeling my eyelids getting heavy. I had a smoothie immediately after the run that included frozen berries, almond milk, 1 tsp maca powder, 1 tsp Omega oil, one B complex, 2 multi-minerals, 1 probiotic and a scoop of Perfect Food.  Then I had a cup of mate and two gluten free waffles with sunflower butter. So…where’s the energy?

Why do I want to take a nap at 11:42 in the morning? What am I not doing right? Is this STILL caffeine withdrawal? Should I have ignored my body this morning when it begged me to get out on the road? Did I really so exhaust myself over the course of the last six months that it’s going to take another six months to get my energy levels back up to what they were? And really, what were they? Have I ever really had any sustained energy? Or have I just been faking it? The truth is, I have been tired for the last ten years. But how is it possible that I’ve been training and competing in amateur sports that whole time? Why do I feel alternately great and crappy? Energized and fatigued? Calm and anxious?

These are the questions I’ve got rolling around in my brain right now. They’re sharing space with the questions I’ve got about Oedipus and narcissists and the drama of family dynamics and how to be an adult relating to other adults. And I have to work very hard to make sure that the questions I’m asking about my health don’t completely take over that space; overpower the questions I have to be asking about my work and my writing and my personal life. But this is tricky because those questions all probably, in one way or another, point to the same answer.

I know it’s not just about coffee and it’s not just about gluten or dairy. It’s not just about booze or casein or yeast. It’s not just about migraines and balance issues and yo-yo dieting. It’s not just about hay fever or eating too much soy. It’s not about pestides and GMOs and soil depletion and how none of our food has any nutritional value anymore. Well, maybe it’s a little about all of that. Honestly though, I think it’s far more likely that this is about me, and so many other young American women, fighting to hit one or two or twenty unattainable goals and making ourselves sick in the process.

Further Adventures in the Breakthrough Zone

10 Apr

Waking up this morning for my swim, I felt the same mild dread that I feel when I realize it’s been a while since I cleaned my apartment and I know I need to do it because it will improve my quality of life but I kinda just want to say, frack it and wallow in filth instead.

Inevitably, I do what needs to be done in order to feel like an adult, professional human and I break out the Swiffer Wet Jet (my new favorite thing) and a pair of rubber gloves and I crank my music as loud as I like because I figure, if I have to suffer, so do my neighbors. Not very nice, I know, but I hate cleaning. HATE IT. I only do it because I know that after it’s done, I’ll be happier and able to enjoy my clean apartment in a state of semi-Zen like bliss.

This morning, I knew that getting up and getting into the pool before sunrise would yield the same kind of enlightenment and peace. Despite the fact that I really, really, really didn’t want to get out of bed. I toyed with the idea of using my shoulder as an excuse-it’s not hurting anymore but I am aware that it exists–and then I did that thing where I tell myself that I can “just do the swim on my own after work tonight.” Hardy freakin’ har. NEVER A GOOD IDEA. I’ve learned a lot in the last few months but one of the most valuable lessons has been to get the damned workout done before you have a chance to think about it. The longer you wait to do it, the less likely you are to do it.

And that made me think again about my yoga practice. And Standing Head to Knee (the posture of the week, it seems). And how the instructors always tell you to get into that posture as quickly as possible. Don’t think about, they tell you. Just pick up your foot and lock your knee. Sometimes, in class, I’ll see people take a full 15-20 seconds before getting into that posture. They leisurely dry their hands of sweat that is just going to come right back. They take a couple extra sips of water. They stare intensely at themselves in the mirror. And then, when they’re ready, they pick up their foot and slowly, oh so slowly, they raise it off the floor. They basically skip over the entire set-up for the posture which is, incidentally, probably the hardest part. They kick out immediately. Spend a couple of seconds in full expression and then they’re done.

I’m not criticizing. I’m just wondering right now if they do this and think, “Yeah, I just gave that 110%.” Or if they’re honest with themselves about the fact that they’re totally half-assing it. Too each his/her own. I shouldn’t be worrying about what they’re doing anyway. I should be focusing on my own yoga. And I normally am. Swear. I don’t like to waste any time in that class. I like to think that for every second of solid effort, I get an extra second or two of my life back. That shit adds up.

So I pushed the excuses out of my mind this morning. Got myself up. Ate some Cheerios with strawberries and had my now daily cup of Green Chai. I’d packed all my stuff (lunch, snacks, change of clothes, grading stuff) last night so I didn’t have much to gather before leaving. I looked at my swim workout in Training Peaks and laughed a couple of times thinking there was no way I’d get it done. Then I left my house.

I drove to school, got in the pool a little late, shared a lane with a teammate who didn’t care that I kicked him twice, was mindful of my shoulder, took my time and tried to focus on extension and body position, got kicked out of the pool with 800 yards left, got back in the car, drove across campus to the gym, got back into the indoor pool and finished my final 800 yards.

It took longer than the scheduled hour but I really didn’t care. My 300 yard warmup felt effortless. The last 8 x 50 with 10 second rest intervals felt challenging but doable. What happened in between happened and now it’s over. And I really couldn’t tell you very much about it.

I’m starting to think that I train better, or maybe just a little smarter, when fatigued or when I’m being extra mindful of an overused body part. I did mention to the swim coach that I’d “tweaked” my shoulder and his advice was just to get in, loosen up and keep track of it. If it started to hurt, I could just kick my entire workout. I sure as hell didn’t want to do that. So I took it one lap at a time, one length at a time, always knowing that I had an out if I wanted it. But it’s funny, the “out” is kinda like a security blanket or health insurance: when you know it’s there, you never use it. The minute it’s gone, you’re crying like a baby or you need to have an emergency (read: $20,000) appendectomy.

If you’re really injured, you gotta rest. No doubt. But 99% of the time, it’s better to keep your body moving, even if it’s a little tight or a little sore in one particular spot. Not engaging that nagging shoulder or knee or plantar fascia can do psychological damage. You start to see that part of your body as weaker or a little more broken than other parts. And then six months have gone by and you haven’t used it at all and now it really IS weaker or more broken.

All of this boils down to mindfulness.

EVERYTHING BOILS DOWN TO MINDFULNESS.

It’s really kind of insane.

Becoming fully aware pays dividends. And the only way to become fully aware is to confront your ignorance. Ask it questions. Demand that it justify its existence in your world. Today I laughed at 2700 yards. I thought, No way. I was ignorant of my own potential. By hitting the pool and finishing the swim, I became just a little more aware of my own infinite possibilities.

All you ever have to do is try the right way.

Breakdown to Breakthrough

9 Apr

Breakdown: The Shoulder

I did something to my shoulder. Here’s how things went down:

  • Wednesday Night: It all started at Speed and Agility class–the Alien Endurance book camp-style class that involves a lot of Plyometric exercises, sprinting and running in odd formations around cones. I hadn’t been since September and decided it was high time to get back to work.
    • I did descending sets of Burpees and V-Ups starting at 15 of each. I made it down to the 2nd to last set before Commander made us stop. So, if I do the math, that adds up to 127 of each exercise. Then I did some fast twitch muscle drills and then I ran 10 x 100 meter sprints at negative splits.
  • Thursday: Swam 2,100 yards of mixed drills and multiple 100s.
    • That night, I ran 5.5 miles of mostly bridge repeats.
  • Friday: I was off. My right shoulder was starting to feel a little wonky but I was sore all over from the class so I didn’t think anything of it and stupidly decided against ice and ibuprofen. No idea why.
  • Saturday: I donned the wetsuit for a 30 minute open water swim. The shoulder felt tight but I was only “aware” of it in the last, oh, 300 yards.
    • Then I ran 10.5 miles.
    • By mid-day Saturday, the shoulder ballooned up to like 3x it’s normal size (OK, that’s an exaggeration but it got very puffy) and started to ache.
    • It ached all through the night, and yet I still refused to take any anti-inflammatories. Why am I so dumb? Your guess is as good as mine.
  • Sunday: I opted against sleeping in and decided instead to get my 90 minute bike out of the way while everyone else was at church or eating Cadbury Cream Eggs and spiral ham and/or matzoh.
    • The shoulder was really burning after the ride and so I finally bit the bullet, came home, dosed myself with Advil and spent the majority of the day strapped to a bag of ice.

WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?

Delaware is out to get me. Delaware is one of my teammates. I prefer to refer to her by her proper name, Delaware Amante de Perros Grandes, but Delaware is easier to type. She’s made it her singular goal to beat my time in our next race. Bets are being made and smack is being talked. I LOVE this sort of thing as the idea of someone hot on my tail only makes me work harder. It brings out the rabid competitor in me. The pic below is of me taunting Delaware with the phrase, “Numero Uno. NUMERO UNO,” when she didn’t show up to speed class on Wednesday.

So basically, my desire to thoroughly throttle her ass at the next race made me overtrain a bit. But it’s all good because, as luck would have it, she’s injured too! That sounds awful. She’s probably going to read this and I know she knows I don’t actually wish her any ill-will, but at least for the moment, the playing field is leveled off a bit.

I would like to make it abundantly clear, however, that this was an over/misuse strain from which I am almost totally healed.

I would also like to point out that had Delaware not challenged me, I would not have overtrained a bit this week and therefore, I wouldn’t have found the antidote to ego, rabic competitiveness and performance addiction.

WHAT IS THE ANTIDOTE FOR EGO, RABIB COMPETITIVENESS & PERFORMANCE ADDICTION?

Dandayamana-Janushirasana:  Standing Head to Knee. It is a yoga posture that looks like this:

Huiping Mo, Bishnu Ghosh Cup Champion demonstrates standing head-to-knee pose. photo: Bikram Yoga College of India

Breakthrough: Head to Knee

OK, technically, all of yoga is the antidote but I happened to have my breakthrough yesterday in standing head to knee. Here’s the deal with this pose:

  • You have to work on this one in stages:
    • First, you grab your free foot and hold it so your leg is bent at a 90 degree angle and your upper body is sort of folded over your quad, abs engaged.
    • Then you completely lock your standing knee.
    • Once your standing knee is locked, you can raise your free foot so your leg looks like Huiping’s leg in the left-most picture. See how her right foot is like bending back towards her face and her achilles is totally stretched out and both of her knees are completely locked? That is a perfect foundation.
    • So, you stand like that for a couple of seconds and then you start bending your elbows down below your calf (middle picture), curving your spine and continuing to look forward.
    • THEN, at the very end (final picture), you curve your spine even more, fold your head into your chest and place your forehead on your knee. And you stand there. And you try to breath. And not fall over.

I wanted to bail on yoga last night because my shoulder hurt. But then I decided I had to go. Sometimes you just have to go to yoga and so you do. Anyone who practices regularly knows what I’m talking about. I knew it would probably be a hard class because I pretty much couldn’t lift my right arm over my head without some discomfort and my range of motion was subsequently compromised.

Because I went into the class knowing it would be challenging, I gave myself a pass to “work only to the point possible for today.” As opposed to most days when I ignore my body and try to muscle it into every single posture based on what I have done or feel like I should be able to do. Because I was “injured,” I let go of all expectations. Just showing up and trying my best would be success.

I have been practicing Bikram yoga for over four years now and last night, LAST NIGHT, with my busted right shoulder, I got my damned head to my damned knee and held it there for about three full seconds, with control, before I fell out of the posture.

I’ve been working up to this point so it’s not like last night I just magically got my head to my knee. My leg muscles are stronger, my balance is improving, I’ve made a few tiny adjustments to body position over the last few weeks, so I knew eventually it would happen. But it happened last night specifically because I wasn’t trying to make it happen. It happened last night because I surrendered a little.

I will not surrender to Delaware, however. Come what may. Though I will be more mindful of my body over these next weeks leading up to Tri Miami so that I am fit and healthy enough to dash her hopes and dreams. But only until I cross the finish line, then it’s big hugs and vegan cupcakes.

Recovery Monday Bars

13 Feb

Today is Monday. Monday is a recovery day. Now, before I go any further into what this particular Monday has looked like, I want to make sure we’re all up to speed on the lingo. Recovery does not mean that I am “off” or enjoying a day of “rest.” On off days, I don’t have a scheduled triathlon workout but I can take care of other stuff–like my job, my badly neglected social life, etc…I can do yoga, I can tootle around on my bike. On full rest days, I’m supposed to stay off my legs as much as possible. Full rest days normally come 48 hours before a race or 24 hours before a long training session, say a long run or a long bike or a long bike followed by a long run (a.k.a. a “brick.”)

On recovery days, I still have to run. In fact, the run that is scheduled on my Training Peaks (more on TP later) is referred to as a “recovery run.” The benefits of recovery runs are apparently hotly debated. I am learning that most techniques for effective endurance training are. Hotly debated, that is. There doesn’t seem to be any debate that recovery runs are good for the athlete, just a debate about why they are good.

I’ve been told that RRs get blood moving through the legs again after a long or hard training run the previous day and that promotes the clearance of lactic acid. This article I just found on Active, claims that the benefits are more about training the runner to run on fatigued legs. Whatever. It’s a win-win either way and I gotta do one regardless. Tonight.

I gotta recoverun (ya’ like that?) tonight because I didn’t get up and do it this morning because I really, really wanted–no, I needed–to sleep in.

Another translation: “sleep in” for triathletes means, “wake up a minute after sunrise.”

But I don’t mind running at night. And I actually look forward to Monday night recovery runs because a) they’re easy (depending on where I am in the training schedule, they can be anywhere from 30-45 minutes at a luxuriously slow pace in a luxuriously low HR zone) b) I normally do them with the group (although tonight, I have to go it alone a little on the early side so I can make 6:30PM yoga so I can get home and get to bed before 10PM so I can get up at 6AM tomorrow to get my swim in before the work day begins) and c) …wait, what was I talking about?

Oh yeah, Recovery Monday. Yoga has to happen on a Recovery Monday otherwise I won’t be able to get to class until WEDNESDAY! Oh, the humanity! Before I started participating in this ridiculous sport, I was doing yoga 4-5 days a week. Now, I’m lucky if I can get eight classes in a month. If I don’t practice 2 days a week, I find that my running suffers. My sleep suffers. My brain suffers. My mood suffers. My friends suffer. My students suffer. There’s a whole lot of unnecessary suffering.

Also on Recovery Mondays (“RM,”) I like to catch up on “life” stuff. As in, I do laundry, I grade, I prep for classes. I’m feeding my teammate’s dog this week so I did that on RM. I bought a new vacuum last week so today I took that little red devil for a spin around the old casa. I also went grocery shopping.

And the same thing happens that always happens: I go off-list for a second and suddenly find myself in the granola bar aisle. This happens constantly. I never buy anything but it has become a kind of grand dream that I will find a box of granola bars that does NOT list High Fructose Corn Syrup (or even SUGAR) as its first ingredient. And even grander still, is the dream in which I find said bars and they don’t cost $5.99 for six of them.

So I stood in the aisle and I picked up every box of granola bars on the shelf and I scrutinized the labels, trying to find ONE that had less than say, 10g of sugar per serving. I’m sure I looked like a right ass, studying a box of Fiber One bars like it was a Biology text and finally I was like, “I never studied for biology.” And I threw the box at the head of a woman standing next to me (no, I didn’t) and I ran home in a rage (no, I didn’t)  to make my own (yes, I did).

I’ve tried making protein bars and granola bars in the past and I’ve never had much success. But this batch, I think, might be a winner. I also decided to experiment with soy flour (since I never have before and it packs a mega protein punch). It’s working for me.

I can’t remember exactly what I did–silly me, I didn’t write anything down–but I think it was like 2 2/3 cups oats, 1 cup soy flour, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, a handful of dried cranberries, 1/2 cup shredded coconut, 1 cup canned pumpkin, like 1/4 cup blue agave nectar, some cinnamon and a twee pour of almond milk. Mixed it all together, baked it in a 9×9 pan at 375 for 25 minutes and voila. Here they be:

I kinda can’t stop eating them. But I will. I will freeze half the batch (individually wrapped) and throw them in my lunch sack when needed. Oh, I also made those muffins on the rack below. Here’s their Sears glamour shot:

These are old hat at this point. Couple mashed bananas, more canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spices, white whole wheat (with some soy flour thrown in today), agave and almond milk. I make them all the time and freeze in pairs. I like to have one before a long bike. They’re totally vegan too. In fact, so are the bars!

But don’t worry. I roasted a chicken at the same time I was baking.  No pic of the chicken. That would be indecent. I will tear it apart and try not to think of it as it once was (alive) and use it in spicy chicken-vegetable hash and other such recipes this week.

So now that all that’s done, I can stuff myself into my “cold weather” running gear (it’s 60 degrees here today) and head out to recover.