Saturday, May 31, 2008
Last week I couldn't help but comment on a Yahoo! Shine blog about tips for finding a good walking partner. OK, doesn't have to be a "walking" partner, could be any activity. One of the points made is to find someone who helps you stay accountable. I say accountable is important, but take it a step further and find someone who is enabling! Yes, enabling someone usually gets a bad rap but it shouldn't when it comes to finding time to exercise. Take yesterday as an example. Pam's husband was traveling so our early morning run was no longer an option. We moved our run to later that morning. I pulled my girls in the red wagon over to her house after her youngest daughter woke up and her older daughter went to school. I then took off with the dog for an hour run. When I returned she took off for her hour run. Meanwhile our children had a delightful play date. This is an arrangement we have made many times before when one of us or neither of us has adequate childcare or enough room in a baby jogger (O.K. that's just me). So are we running partners on those days we don't run together? My definition of workout partner includes someone who also enables you to workout, with or without them. Thanks Pam.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
We returned from Colorado yesterday and fortunately my mom is staying on a few more days so I can acclimate to my new/old schedule, which is decidedly different than the hours we kept in Boulder: lazy mornings, brunch, a run/hike/bike, nap, cocktails, dinner, movie--not necessarily in that order.
After a few days away, besides being delirious from missing my kids, I returned ready to be the Best Mom Ever. I could feel the patience spilling out of my ears, I had so much. All the ragged edges had been rubbed smooth (from that last day of margaritas, no doubt) so everything from the tone in my voice to my perspective on laundry was renewed with verve.
That afternoon I took the dog and the girls out for a bike ride (poor mom needed a little peace now). We dropped something off at a friend's house and then I suggested we take the "long" way back, by the park. Mc immediately piped in: "Oh yes, I'd like to get some exercise!" I was smitten, of course. What Sweaty Mama wouldn't adore her 4-year-old for valuing exercise already? While I was brimming with pride her twin began objecting. She proceeded to object most of the way home, until we got to a "big hill," which apparently is all she wanted. Again, I didn't like her approach, but the Sweaty Mama in me appreciates that her daughter enjoys hill repeats. The thing is, I was able to filter out the nagging, whining, complaining and pouting quite well. Nothing could penetrate my Best Mom Ever shield. Down the next hill Mc crashed her bike pretty good. I spent a few minutes consoling her then put her on my back. With a 4-year-old on my back, dog leash in my hand and bike in the other, I get up to see my 3-year-old squatting behind some bushes in a neighbor's front yard. What is she doing? I think. "What are you doing?" I say. Then see her rise up, with her bare little bum and shout, "I have to go pee pee!" Fortunately the neighbors, whom I don't know, weren't staring out the window, but it is indeed unfortunate no one caught me on camera. I'm sure we were quite the spectacle. As horrified as I was it took everything I had not to laugh. Where did she learn to do this? And why was K standing by on her bike watching her like a lookout instead of stopping her? I quickly helped her get her pants back on (even though she managed to pee all over them). We took the flat, short path home. Best Mom Ever with dog in hand and injured girl on back, with the grumpy girl leading the way, followed by the exhibitionist in wet pants. That is me in real life. That is my world.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Yesterday my husband and I flew into Denver for that "Romantic Getaway Weekend" I mentioned in my last post. I wrote about why we're taking this trip over at the Fit Mom Blog at Tip Toe Turtle, if you need more background. So, our day started at Carmichael Training Systems in Colorado Springs. My husband treated me to a lactate threshold test and a VO2 Max test. I realize not every wife would find that sweet and thoughtful, especially because it requires a certain degree of discomfort, but this wife did. It was exciting to be at the acclaimed CTS operation (if you're a Lance Armstrong fan, you're with me here) and as a general fan of fitness, finding out what you're made of, and more importantly what you're capable of, is enlightening. My training (and I say training very loosely) has never been that scientific, but certainly the last five years, since becoming a mom, the focus has been less about setting goals and more about moving for moving's sake. Both tests were conducted on a bike. Can I tell you the last time I was on a bike? No. Honestly, I can't remember. Let's see, I've taken a handful of spin classes over the winter. While I was wishing I had been on my bike a little bit more before showing up, Lindsay, who was conducting my test, said that getting a baseline test was actually very helpful. Good, I would start at ground zero on the scale of cycling fitness. I'd like to mention here that I wore a comfortable pair of cycling shorts with a seamless chamois liner.
The lactate threshold test was similar to the anaerobic threshold test I took four years ago on a treadmill in terms of intensity. Just a gradual effort that gets you a little beyond that "talk test"--when it gets hard to carry on a conversation. Of course, you're not talking at all because you have to wear this Darth Vader-like mask to capture the various gasses in the breath you exhale (this is more uncomfortable than the actual riding or running). With the lactate test, though, I got several finger pricks throughout the test. So in addition to knowing at what heart rate I move from an aerobic to anaerobic state, I also know at what heart rate my body starts going overboard on lactic acid--that's when you feel the "burn" in your muscles. This is good to know so I can train within a range that allows my body to positively respond to the exercise I'm doing, but also so I can work to push that range higher. By pushing that threshold higher I can go longer and faster. This test was over in about 15 minutes. The VO2 max test was much shorter but harder: I had to pedal at an increasingly difficult effort until I couldn't pedal anymore. Basically this test lets you know at what heart rate you poop out. As my husband says, it represents your potential. With training you can raise this number too, but because you can't sustain any effort at your VO2 Max, the lactate threshold is a more practical and useful test to work from.
Why should I care about any of this? I'm signed up for a few triathlons this summer, but it's not like I have any aspirations to become super competitive. The thing is, I like self-improvement. I take classes to become a better writer. I read books to become a better mother. And so I exercise to be healthier. I don't have to use these numbers just to improve competition. In fact, I'd say improving these numbers are more important to general fitness than tracking body weight on a scale. I'm at a healthy weight, so how do I quantify my fitness? I think fitness testing is how. Even when I do well in a race or two, it doesn't really tell me how fit I am. I've earned a few trophies, not because I was in the best shape of my life, but because I was one of the few women competing in my age group. But if I can increase my lactate threshold and my VO2 max then I know I'm actually accomplishing something.
Today we're off to Boulder. No more tests until Monday morning, when we run the Bolder Boulder 10K. And yes, I think that's romantic, too.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
This is not the blog I thought I was going to write. Before going to my kickboxing class last night, I knew I would want to write about it. I love it. I'm not the typical "group fitness" girl. I like to think of myself as an athlete, so group fitness didn't seem like training. Plus, with naps, preschool, and other mommy duties I could rarely make it to the gym to meet anyone else's schedule. But alas, my schedule and the group fitness schedule intersected when I discovered a class called "Strike" that started an hour before my girls swimming lesson. Strike is a great combo of aerobic and strength but minimal coordination is required. I've never thrown punches before and I found it (as disturbing as this sounds) addictive. Hitting, even if it is just the air in front of my face, makes me feel fierce. I get to be fierce for one hour a week and then go home and tuck my sweet babies into bed.
Last night was the girls' last swim lesson, which meant I didn't know when I'd be able to return to my beloved Strike class. I wanted to make it count; make a lasting impression on my body. The class was memorable, to be sure, but not for the reason I hoped for: Because the seam in the crotch of my yoga pants drove me to distraction.
It was so inappropriate. Pam nailed it when I told her about my situation on our run this morning: "It's like that boy in high school who just couldn't get it right." Worse, really, because the time and place were all wrong. I wanted to wiggle away from that seam and couldn't escape. Did I mention I was in the front row? Mirrors everywhere? In a full class? Surrounded by windows, too, so the muscle heads could see me struggling to get my pants out of my ass?
Squats and lunges, jumping jacks and knee thrusts, that damn seam kept rubbing me wrong. I've birthed three babies without an epidural; I know all about that ring of fire. Somehow this felt worse. Perhaps because I was caught unaware, but also because I was trying to disassociate my crotch from the upper cuts and jabs. Be in the moment, give my full attention to the workout, mind over matter. But the present was happening in my pants and so I'd try to pull the crotch down, or over a bit, furtively, between right hooks, but there was just enough lycra to snap right back, like a leech on my labia.
Instead of savoring every minute of what could be my last Strike class for who knows how long, I was watching the clock, ready to bolt. As soon as it was over, I did, and fortunately, because I had a pair of running shorts in my gym bag, I bolted right out of those God-awful pants, too. I don't think I did any lasting damage (and good thing--my husband and I have a romantic getaway planned this weekend), but I feel the need to vindicate myself at another Strike class. I'll have to give that group fitness schedule another chance. Not those yoga pants. Wish I had sold them in the garage sale last weekend.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
We had a massive neighborhood garage sale this weekend. After spending the last five years in acquisition mode, this year began the purge phase. It was rather difficult letting go of the tiny plastic kitchen I bought for the twins when they were learning how to pull up. Even at 9-months-old they knew how to stir things up on that little stove. The woman who bought it said it was for her 2-year-old niece and asked if I thought she might be too old for it. "Yes, I said," obviously sabotaging the sale. She bought it anyway. Another woman wanted to buy the lullaby CDs that I used in a futile effort to get my twins to sleep more. They were for the grandchildren she didn't yet have. I told her how much I had loved those CDs. She gave them back to me and said, "Maybe you should keep them." I did, for my own grandchildren I don't yet have. Despite not being a good salesperson, we sold most everything, including the double jogging stroller. It was a love-hate piece of exercise equipment. I preferred to run without it (and its occupants) but that meant most of my runs took place early in the morning, before my husband left for work. However, it saved me on those days he was out of town, or when I otherwise had no other option for a workout. Once JC was born, the jog stroller became obsolete for runs with my children, but I used it quite a lot for walks in the neighborhood and trips to the park. (The photo above, the inspiration for the art on the blog, shows us about to embark on a 5K.) For the next two summers the twins rode while JC travelled strapped to my chest or propped on my back. That was a defining moment as a fit mom. That was when I concluded walking to the park was indeed a workout. When you're pushing from 40-70 lbs in a stroller and hoisting another 8-20 lbs on your body, it doesn't matter how slow you go, the workout counts. But now that my girls prefer to ride their big girl bikes the stroller sits in the garage. I sometimes still need a stroller for JC, but certainly not a double. A wonderful outing at Lake Harriet on Thursday confirmed we no longer need the double stroller. The girls rode their bikes while I walked . They're not quite fast enough (as a group, that is) for me to run along side them, but it won't be long. Besides, at this point, as a guardians of their health, I'd rather them move than sit anyway. Still, it was a bittersweet moment loading that stroller into a stranger's vehicle. It brings a whole new context to the "purge" stage. It means growing independence for my kids and new experiences for us as a fit family.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I finally made it to my first track workout this year. The notion of a track workout makes it sound so intense, so hard core. If you are motivated to attend because you will be eating Mexican food and hydrating with beer afterward, then you are not so hard core. Combining workouts with social time is the perfect combination for "Girls Night Out." This growing group of women (and when I say *growing* I mean the group itself not the women:-) has been meeting for three years now. In the summer we gather for weekly track workouts and in the winter we meet monthly for "Women's Adventure Night." This has included trail running, cross country skiing, hip hop dancing, speed skating, pole dancing and bra shopping (and that was an adventure!). We all love to run though, so we look forward to getting to the track. Some of us are training for 5Ks, some for triathlons, some for marathons, some for nothing, but we all enjoy the workout and camaraderie. Darcy is our ringleader and lead comic. She is a tremendous athlete with a knack for motivating others. All the women I've met at the track are fun and supportive, which is why I keep coming. I need the girlfriend time as much (more?) than the workout. The workout though, was great. After a warm up, we did an 800 (truth: I got there late and my warm up was my 800). Then the set was a 200, 400, 600 at your 800 pace with a minute rest in between. We repeated that 3 times with 3 minutes rest in between sets. It went so fast I didn't realize we were done after our third round. But the night got even better with the bbq tacos, the pitcher of Summit and the numerous rounds of laughter that ensued.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Success! I did get my run in today after all. And resourceful as I am, brought along a crib mattress pad to cover JC in case of rain. As I was scrambling to get out the door that morning (typical) I thought I should grab a blanket, but then thought, if it rains, I don't want a wet blanket. I considered a tarp, but that would be too big and, besides, we don't have one. I wondered if someone had invented the water-proof blanket for jogging strollers yet. I know there are plastic covers, but I didn't want her to be "bubble girl" on our run. I wanted her to feel the wind on her face and get fresh air. The waterproof crib pad, was my stroke of (and only) genius for the day. It didn't rain enough to truly need it, but because I am never so prepared, I pulled it out and covered her up those last few, drizzly minutes back to the car. If anyone was watching (and no one was) they would have thought, "Wow, that mom has it together. She thinks of everything. She must be so organized." None of that is true, of course, so I was showing off to no one. Well, not exactly no one. We saw eight (8!) deer along the way. And they checked us out, didn't move much off the path as we went by. It was spectacular. Numerous cardinals and orioles, too. Spring has arrived in Minnesota, after all. So what's with "strojoring" you ask? You've heard of skijoring, right? This is where you cross country ski tethered to a dog. Well the dog was tethered to the stroller and we were flying through Hyland Recreational Park. And the bonus, JC got a nap (she can't resist the lull of the jogging stroller). I'm glad the afternoon run/walk/bird watch/nap/wild life safari/strojoll worked out. I may not be all that organized but I can multitask like nobody's business.
Maybe it's ironic that my first post on this blog is made possible because I skipped my morning run. That's sort of the whole point of this blog though, how we have to make choices and trade offs in order to balance motherhood and everything else we do, which in my case includes fitness... and now blogging, too. It feels a little insane to be adding one more thing to my list. Anyway, that choice was made easier today because my devoted running partner is out with a sinus and ear infection. Her name is Pam, by the way. I'm sure you'll hear more about her in subsequent posts, like posts about our "commune without walls" with food sharing, clothes sharing and child sharing (we draw the line at husbands). Seriously, she's front and center of my "village," and I wouldn't be as sane or as fit without her. Back to choices though, I was glad to type away in the early hours this morning instead of run because I conjured up the perfect plan this afternoon: while my twins (Mc & K) are at their nature class I will run with my 3-year-old (JC) in Pam's jogging stroller (see what I mean--but the only jogger I have is a double) with our 8-year-old dog, Zoe, a black squirrel dog, also known in our house as a "black greybador retriever," due to her lab-like head and greyhound like body. This is the perfect plan, so long as it doesn't rain. OK, I just checked the weather. By 3 pm, when my plan is to unfold, it should be 53 degrees (only in Minnesota) with a 50 percent chance of rain. Crap. Can't you just see it: dog, toddler, jog stroller, determined mom in the middle of a cold downpour? Will she find fitness in the chaos of motherhood? Stay tuned.