May 182013
 

After a few months of training and lots (and lots) (and LOTS) of “wait, why are we doing this again?” I did my first half marathon two weeks ago.

Andy, my cousin Dustin, and I were up at the asscrack of dawn that morning to head downtown for the Indy 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. Can I sidetrack and brag for a moment? Andy was terrific and beat last year’s time by 13 minutes (despite a repeat of his Achilles issues), and Dustin completed the race after having major back surgery last year and being cleared for exercise just this winter. My family’s pretty awesome.

family at Mini

The two boys left me at the back of the pack and went to find their own corrals. Then I waited and waited some more. I was literally THE back of the pack, in corral Z with the rest of the walkers and slowpokes. Want to know how long it takes to get 30,000 people across a start line? About 32 minutes, which is how long the race had been underway before I officially began it.

mini start line

 

And then I walked. And walked. And ran for a bit when I felt like it. And walked some more. And wasted a good twelve minutes or so making a potty stop in a line that I thought would move faster. And enjoyed all the bands and various entertainment along the route. And felt thankful for the water stop volunteer who ran with me for a bit. And did a lap around the racetrack and kissed the famous bricks.

kissing the bricks

 

And kept up or improved my pace the whole time. And checked off the miles as they racked up.

minimilemarkers

 

I ran most of the last mile knowing I was almost! done! It was such a great “I did it! Go me! I’m so awesome!” feeling to cross the finish line. Of course, you collect your medal, head over to the park, see the other 29,999 people who just did the same thing, and realize you aren’t that special. But you know what? Who cares. That was the furthest I had ever gone. I still was (and am) pretty damn proud of myself.

IMG_4380

 

The whole experience made me go from “this is such a stupid idea why do people do this willingly” to “sure, I’ll sign up again next year.” I can’t rave enough about all the volunteers and the energetic and supportive crowd of racers and spectators. I also love feeling decently in shape again. Doing 13.1 miles felt like no more effort than the 4.6 I did at Thanksgiving, which gives me motivation to keep going.

So to keep going, I’ve done something I thought I’d never do: sign up to run a 5K. Going from 13 miles to 3 might not seem like a challenge, but I’ve never been a runner. And I’m not completely sure my knees will allow it to happen, but I’m going to try. I’m easing into running with a couch-to-5K training program, to be as kind to my knees as possible and give me the best chance to run the race in July.

Last night, before I went out for my training run/walk, I glanced down at my iPhone armband, my moisture-wicking shirt, my running shoes. “Who AM I?” I jokingly asked Andy. I’m not sure who this girl is, but I hope she sticks around for while.

Dec 142012
 

Last night was my last Intermediate Swimming class. I love that I can tell a difference in my abilities from when the class started two months ago. I can swim a length of freestyle without having to stop midway through, and can regulate my breathing without getting winded. I can do a flip turn (yay!) and a “elbow someone/do your hair” breaststroke turn. I can do freestyle, breaststroke, elementary backstroke, regular backstroke, and sidestroke. I can dive (yay!) off the starting block (double yay!).

Now just to keep practicing and getting better, both in technique and just overall being in shape. My challenge right now is to start getting in a regular schedule of workouts. You’d think it would be easy since the kids are in school every day, but it’s not, at least for me. Those handful of hours when Henry and Eleanor are in school are the only time I get to run errands by myself, or answer emails without getting interrupted, or do any number of things that go much quicker when I can do them in solitude. Taking an hour or so to head to the Y cuts into that already-limited time. I struggle with the balance of taking care of the household and taking care of myself. But if I’m going to do the half-marathon next spring, I’ve got to start making a schedule and sticking to it. This week I’ve managed to ride the recumbent bike here at home one night, and have been swimming twice. It’s a start, right?

And can I count chopping off my hair as losing some weight this week? My hair is so thick—a good problem to have, I know—but I was discovering that swimming + my hair = I was starting to feel like my hair was never ever dry. When it’s longer, it can take seven or eight hours to air-dry after swimming or showering. So at my hair appointment last week I gave the okay to chop it.

It’s amazing how five or six less inches makes me feel at least twenty pounds lighter. But, as I’ve warned Andy, you are NOT allowed to call it Mom Hair. It’s my Swimming & Training For The Mini Hair. Got it?

Nov 302012
 

So I guess I have this new habit of signing up for races and then not training for them. First it was Wine at the Line, and on Thanksgiving morning Andy and I did the Drumstick Dash.

We woke up early and headed to Broad Ripple for a 4.6-mile run/walk, something that does not sound fun when you’re anticipating a day of mashed potatoes and stuffing and fat pants.

In car, on way to race
ANDY: I’m glad we could do this, this is a fun thing to be able to do together.
JENNIFER: “…even though you’ve been bitching about it all morning.” That’s the second part of your sentence, right?
ANDY: Well, yeah.

True love, people. TRUE. LOVE.

Actually, Andy was right, it WAS a fun thing to do together. We got there early enough where we had time to hang out with each other and do some pre-race stuff, like eat bananas and browse sponsor booths and take pictures with turkeys.

The race went well for both of us. Andy ran, I walked. I left my phone at the gear check-in, so no pictures, but Andy and I were nice enough to re-enact it for you.

We both did pretty well, for two people that had Achilles problems (Andy) and didn’t train (me).

I even ran little bits here and there, like the last quarter-mile. I was proud that, compared to my first race, I went over a mile further AND knocked 24 seconds off my pace. Go me!

The “being sore for two or three days afterwards” part wasn’t fun, but we had a good enough time that Andy somehow convinced me to sign up today for next May’s Mini half-marathon. 13.1 miles…I’ll probably have to train for THAT one, won’t I? At least I’ll have Friday blog fodder for the next five months or so.

Nov 162012
 

You guys. YOU GUYS! Guess who has two thumbs and can now do a honest-to-goodness big-girl dive?

*this girl*

So yeah, I had swimming last night and I’m starting to sound like a broken record but I really, really like it. My freestyle is starting to make more sense to me, and I worked on refining and speeding up my backstroke. I think I swam the most laps in one sitting than I ever have. If only I could find more time to practice during the week, I think I could start adding “getting in shape” to the “learn new skills” part of swimming.

And since it was a smaller class last night, I got to do some one-on-one work on my diving, too. We reviewed what I had started to do in my last class, and I did a few kneeling dives. Then my instructor showed me how to do the “stand at the side of the pool, kick up your back leg and jump out into the pool and dive” dive. With no part of me crouching or touching the side of the pool, other than my right foot, this felt like a Real Actual Dive. My first attempt? Totally bellyflopped it. But about ten tries later I was getting the hang of it. Why is going headfirst into water such a scary thing to me? Your guess is as good as mine, I have no idea. But I did it! More than once! Go me! My new secret goal is to dive off of the starting block.

And THEN, when I was getting ready to leave the pool, I spotted an Olympic rings tattoo on the back of another swimmer. And really, there’s only two types of people who would get Olympic rings tattoos: 1) actual Olympians, or 2) douchebags. The guy looked a little familiar, so I wondered if he were in the former group. I tried to do the “I’m not looking at you but really I am” stealth stalking and then proceeded to spend about an hour Googling, both at the Y on my phone and when I got home. I think it was diver Thomas Finchum there in the pool with me.

So how cool is that, to have an Olympic diver in the pool the night I got over my fear and did some big-girl diving? This can only mean one thing: the U.S. Olympic committee has gotten wind of my lessons and is sending out scouts to recruit me. That has to be it, right? I mean, it wouldn’t be that he was just there working out with a friend or anything. As if.

So I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I’m preeetttttttty sure this is happening:

 

Nov 092012
 

Pro tip: Did you know that if you’ve been sick, if you force your body to rest, it actually starts to feel better? What a novel concept! After being sick for two weeks, and in the “taking care of myself” spirit I still had going after my wonderful girls’ weekend, I made myself lounge on the couch with the cat while the kids were in school this week. Turns out giving yourself a break and napping while letting your antibiotics do their job works better than my usual “buck up and keep going with your usual schedule and still feel sick two weeks later” plan.


Simon: unconventional sinusitis cure

All the resting this week meant I was up for attending my first Intermediate Swimming class. And it was fun! Having had only one other round of lessons, I was worried I wouldn’t be intermediate-y enough, but I did fine. I still have a hard time with freestyle; we’re refining arm motions in this class and I’m back to my “how do I get my head out of the way to breathe oops I just swallowed half the pool” issues. But that’s why I’m taking lessons, right?

But breaststroke: I kinda rocked it. Like, the only one in class who can swim it and got to do so without aid of a pool noodle. I worked on refining my arms a little, and at the end of class even started to learn the competitive way of swimming it. (It involves more hip movement.) (OMG there is just no way to talk about any aspect of the breaststroke without wanting to yell THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID.) Breaststroke is my favorite. (that’s what she said) (SORRY)

So swimming is still going swimmingly. I mean, I won’t be hanging over the lane divider thingies and fist-pumping because I just won a gold medal anytime soon or anything. Dara Torres I’m not, but I AM someone who can do things she couldn’t just two months ago. That’s good enough for me.

Nov 022012
 

Well, Fall seems to keep thwarting my get-in-shape plans. I had planned on regaling you with tales of my Intermediate Swimming, but alas, this has been my week:

So there’s that. No backstrokes or horrible attempts at dolphin kicks this week.

But! While taking care of my mental health and well-being won’t necessarily make me shed any pounds, it’s still important. And it’s what I’m currently doing. I got to run away for a few days and am currently nestled into a bed and breakfast with a handful of mom friends. It’s actually a b & b geared towards scrapbookers. Which I’m not. So I was all “um, soooo…I’m gonna bring my iMac, okay?” and am going to enjoy a few days of photo editing and blogging and Netflix streaming. And, most importantly, eating and peeing without interruption, having conversations without interruption, sleeping without interruption, getting to be selfish and only thinking of myself until Sunday.

I constantly struggle with an inability to schedule time to take care of myself. I feel guilty spending money on myself when I don’t bring in any income. My brain gets stuck in Mom Mode and has a hard time shifting focus away from Henry and Eleanor. And then I find myself stressed out and feeling short of patience with the kids and Andy, which isn’t fair to them. I need to schedule regular breaks for myself, but in five years of stay-at-home-mom-ness, I’ve never mastered that skill. And so I end up sending Andy all-caps OMG HAVEN’T HAD DAY TO MYSELF SINCE FEBRUARY DON’T HAVE EXTRA MONEY BUT SCREW IT GIRLS WEEKEND HAS BEEN BOOKED  text messages-slash-distress calls. I need to work on doing things for myself on an ongoing basis, so I don’t get to the all-caps bitchy stage. And I need to work on not feeling guilty when I do take a break. Trying to improve my physical health is an important goal, but mental health shouldn’t be any less important. This weekend is a good start. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a Diet Coke to enjoy in sweet, delicious peace.

Oct 262012
 

On Monday night I had the last of my first round of swim lessons. You’re looking at a newly minted Intermediate swimmer.

I felt embarrassed but kinda proud to be the only one given the okay to move up from the beginner class. But trust me, it’s not for any sterling Olympic-ready swimming skills, it’s mostly for my comfort level in the water. Like, how I treaded water in the deep end for ten minutes at class Monday night. (I went until we stopped timing and had to move on, now I kinda want to see how long I can go. Anybody got a stopwatch?)

And I DO love being in the water, something these swim lessons confirmed for me. I mean, let’s be real, my first preference is to float in a pool in the middle of summer, bonus points for a margarita in hand. But turns out exercise is kinda fun for me when I can get in the pool. I couldn’t tell you what it is about being in the water that relaxes me, but it does.

So what did I learn this first go-round? I can now do beginner-looking renditions of freestyle, breaststroke, and backstroke. I also did some very basic dives into the water, which was a big deal for me. I have this thing about going headfirst into the water, I’ve had a hang-up about it for basically forever. Go me! I’m proud of myself for acquiring new skills! We will just conveniently ignore the fact that I have swam exactly one lap that didn’t require a stop for breath at the halfway point.

And so now what? Intermediate class, which starts next Thursday. I know I need continued help with my strokes (that’s what she said) but what I really really REEEALLY want to learn is those cool somersault-y things the swimmers do by the wall before they push off in the other direction. I should also probably learn what those things are called. One step at a time, people!

Oct 202012
 

Yes, I’m aware it’s Saturday. And I never posted last Friday, either. At some point I’ll start getting my act together after the month we’ve had, but nope, not there yet.

So, anyway! I did my 5K! And I lived to tell you about it!

First off, a big thank-you to Indiana Dairy, who shared some race entries with local bloggers. I was happy to grab the opportunity, knowing I wanted to start taking better care of myself.

Confession: I’m not a runner. I’ve had bothersome knees since high school, and try to be kind to them (hence the swimming lessons and the closet full of Birkenstocks and Danskos). Plus, I’ve never seen what’s so fun about running. Most of us have been walking and running since toddlerhood, so, like, what’s the challenge? I prefer activities that also include an extra step for your brain. Like swimming: don’t drown. Or biking: don’t fall off. Or Zumba: try to follow along and not look stupid.

Andy, however, IS a runner. He ran track and cross country in high school, and is actually somewhere on the Monon in his Dieter-looking running tights right now as I type this. Whenever I’m all, “What’s the point? How is it fun to go, ‘well, I’m going to run in this straight line, and THEN I’m going to turn around and run back in the EXACT SAME straight line’?” he launches into lectures about pushing your body, and runner’s highs, and feelings of accomplishment, etc. And I just smile and nod and wonder if it would look rude if I slipped off to grab another Diet Coke.

So I was actually pretty excited to test out Runners World for a day, to see what it’s like for Andy, although from a walker’s perspective. Plus, alcohol at the finish line! I could walk three miles for that!

We arrived at Mallow Run Winery to a long line of cars and tons of people milling around. Andy started talking about how fun races are, how the crowds are fun and encouraging. I could start to see where he was coming from. I pinned on my number, and felt like an Official Athletic Person.

And then I headed to the back of the line, with my fellow slowpokes, and waited for the race to start. And waited.

And waited. Finally, the crowds all made it past the starting line and we were off.

We started walking/running through the country, with race volunteers telling us “stay to the right, please!” Why was that? Oh, because the folks running the five-mile race were ALREADY HEADING BACK TO THE FINISH LINE.

Here’s where I could understand Andy’s comments about races being a fun, positive environment. The slow crowd cheered for the five-milers as they sped by and encouraged them to keep going.

We kept walking and walking. Being in such a large group it was hard to maneuver at times; I’d have to slow down my pace and then speed up or start running to get around a group. And my competitiveness kicked in. I’d think, oh, I HAVE to beat these people walking in jeans, or that elderly couple holding hands, or that little kid, or that service dog.

Finally we were down to the last half-mile or so. Knowing it was the home stretch I decided to run it. One short jog later and victory was mine!

I proudly claimed my glass of wine, and enjoyed it in the vineyard while Henry and Eleanor ran up and down the rows yelling, “GRAPES! GRAPES!”

I would have liked to stay and enjoy the music and atmosphere, but the kiddos were getting restless. On a whim, we decided to use a Groupon to a local arcade since we were already on the southside.

Wait, what do you mean you’re not supposed to follow up a 5K with an all-you-can-eat buffet?

And how’d I do, you’re wondering? Behold your 889th-place finisher!

I finished just ahead of a seven-year-old, so HA. I DID beat that little kid.

So overall, first 5K experience = positive. Am I going to turn into an avid walker or runner? No, probably not. I see Andy go through his race training, and I just don’t get the appeal. But I DO get the appeal of exercising in a large group in a fun, supportive atmosphere, and could see working it into my fitness routine. Which is why there’s a Drumstick Dash registration on the kitchen table, waiting for me to fill it out. Maybe I’ll see you there? I’ll be the one in the back of the line, hoping for another top-thousand finish.

Oct 052012
 

Last year, I was in great shape.

I started working out at the start of the year, and continued into the summer. While I frustratingly didn’t lose any weight, I felt the best I’d felt in a long time. I had energy all day (gone were my afternoon slumps), I slept great, my anxiety issues had almost vanished. I liked having muscles, and stamina, and a clear brain. It was awesome.

And then I had my hysterectomy last summer. And fell off the exercise wagon so fast I think I got bruises.

It’s hard for me to make time to take care of myself. I get sucked into that mom thing where I put everyone else and their schedules and priorities ahead of mine.

But this summer Andy and I had to get wellness checks for our health insurance. And my bloodwork came back with cholesterol numbers just shy (like, 2 numbers off) of normal. Not enough for my doctor to do anything other than tell me “diet and exercise.” But I have a history of heart disease on both sides of my family, plus a personal history of high blood pressure, so this is probably the one health-related issue I should take seriously.

I’m gonna get back in shape! I thought. I’ll get to the Y at least three times a week and track my diet and exercise on MyFitnessPal and blog about it to keep myself accountable.

And the Universe heard me and went HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA*takes breath, wipes tears from eyes*HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA and proceeded to give me September.

So now I’m trying to ease back into the grand plans I made earlier. It seems overwhelming to me right now to do both diet and exercise at once, so I’m going to focus on exercise first and slowly add in eating healthier. And I’m going to blog about it every Friday; even if nobody reads it, making my efforts public will hopefully keep me motivated.

And I’m picking up a fun new skill as I ease back into exercise: swimming. Before the September shit hit the fan I had signed up for swimming lessons at the Y. I love being in the water, and am trying to be kind to my knees (my mom needs a double knee replacement, I’m going on the assumption that it’s probably in my future, too). I’ve never learned the proper way to swim for fitness and figured this would be a great time to start.

I’ve had three lessons now and I love it. I’m learning the elements of freestyle and breaststroke and even dove headfirst for the first time ever. Sadly, my iPhone and its camera are not waterproof, so please enjoy this representation instead:

Looks fun, doesn’t it?

•••••

And thus concludes my first installment of Fat to Fit Friday. Check back next week for this:

What’s that, you ask? Oh, just the 5K I registered for thinking I’d be working out a lot more and then oops! September. Will I finish even though I haven’t done three miles of anything in over a year, or will I be stuck in a vineyard somewhere, clutching a handful of grapes and crying WHY DID I THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA WHYYYYYYYY? Who knew a boring fitness blog post could contain So! Much! Suspense!