Monday, September 26, 2011

Success not Dog Meat: Update from Mamacat

OK, must admit I was a little concerned about my friend, when I got this email from her just three days before the Iron Girl Duathlon:
Sent: Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Subject: DOG MEAT

I just read the rules for Iron Girl and I have to run 2 miles in 24 minutes. For you speedy types, this is a breeze. For a poky old girl who runs a 13 minute mile....umm. I be in big trouble. 

My Response to Mamacat: 

Just means you can't walk. Think turnover. You can do it. You just did a triathlon in a cold rain. What can't you do??? Here's some homework if you have time before Sunday. Go to a track and do two warm-up laps, then do 8 laps all at 2:55 or less. You need to run each 400 lap in 3 minutes to make it a 12-minute mile. If you can make that easily bump the laps to 2:50 or 2:45. Give yourself a minute to recover between each lap. Go!

Mamacat's Reply:

Sent: Friday, September 23, 2011
Subject: RE: DOG MEAT

My first lap was 3 minutes. And trust me when I say they didn't get faster. Interestingly, I had to walk more in the first few laps but was able to keep going without a break in the later laps. But they were s-l-o-w. Husband insists that it was a longer track than 1/4 mile but I wouldn't know the difference. I am not worried about going the distance but do worry about the speed. I'll try again tomorrow and Saturday too - even if it's rest day. I'll just have to make it happen. 

My Response (and in my head I'm thinking how sweet it was for her husband to say that the track was long):

Sent: Friday, September 23, 2011
Subject: RE: DOG MEAT

You are not factoring in the race atmosphere, which absolutely increases speed without you even realizing it. All that's required of you Sunday is to do your best. 

Mamacat's Reply:

Sent: Friday, September 23, 2011
Subject: RE: DOG MEAT

Right. Good point. I will do my very best. The first two Tri's were about finishing and this race can be about starting to pick up the pace. 

We eventually figured out that the cut-off was 26 minutes, not the 24-minutes she originally thought. She made the cut-off time and finished with a grand Mamacat-signature smile. Here we are after the finish:

Now, 10 months after Mamacat asked me to help her become a Hot (Sweaty) Mama, we both know she has earned that title and owns it. 

Beyond Mamacat's personal goals, she has experienced the benefits of the last secret in Hot (Sweaty) Mamas, "Act Like Others Are Watching Because They Are." What started as a solo journey has ended with her whole family being more active, including "date" bike rides with her husband and "family night" at the running track. Her son wants to join the local tri store's triathlon team next spring and together they've set their next goal: to run a 5K at the end of October. Mamacat set out to be mentored, but now she has become the mentor.

I think that new role became crystal clear for her at her second triathlon, which was full of obstacles for her; namely, recovering from a root canal that put a crimp in her training, frigid water and a rainy, cool day. Here's what she said about that race, which includes a great suggestion she got from a fellow Hot (Sweaty) Mama:
When the kids saw me coming through the trail head in the woods, they started calling my name as they waited at the top of the hill. "Come on mom, you can make it, we'll finish with you!" When I got to the top of the hill and rounded the corner to the last few hundred feet, my wee ones were there and running with me and we crossed the finish line together. It was awesome.  
A day or so later I started beating myself up for not going faster or doing a better job in the race. I confessed this to a mom at Moms on the Run and she, after admonishing me for such behavior, gave me a nice little piece of advice. "Write a letter to each of your children. Tell them how you ran your first real triathlon when you were sick and it was cold and rainy. Even though there were times you wanted to give up, you didn't. You kept going and kept trying and you finished it. Doesn't matter how fast, it matters that you didn't give up. Write this letter to them now while it's fresh in your mind. Let them open it later in life when they need to remember all the reasons why they should "try" or "do the best they can do" or why they "shouldn't give up." It'll be quite a gift for them and a beautiful lesson. " 
Love it!

Whether because impressionable people are watching or your actions to mentor are intentional, paying it forward is part of living a fit lifestyle. 

When Iron Girl sent me their post-race email, they included this quote, which I think sums up Mamacat's event, as well as her quest to become a Hot (Sweaty) Mama. We should all aspire to do this definition of success:

Success is a peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.
--John Wooden, former coach of the UCLA basketball team

Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting to (Another) Point about the Pelvic Floor

As often happens when I interview someone for an article, sometimes we get off topic. I am notorious for starting a conversation about one thing and leading soon to something entirely different, but eventually circling back (because I'm convinced background is incredibly important) and returning to the topic. My husband has cut me off more than once: "What is your point?"

What IS my point? My point is, I learned something in this interview that would be superfluous background for the article but fascinating for me nonetheless and so worthy of sharing with my blog readers.

But first I have to tell you about the woman I interviewed (see, more background!). Her name is Elizabeth Noble, a physical therapist and author of a book I read 8+ years ago after picking it up from the bookstore on the way home from that 20-week sonogram appointment, which revealed not one but two babies. Her book, "Having Twins," is still on my bookshelf. I especially enjoyed the passage where I learned that my love of sweet potatoes might have had as much to do with my twin pregnancy as my family history and age. My twins were conceived between Thanksgiving and Christmas--the height of yam eating season.

Oh grief, I'm really off the point now.

Sort of. I was speaking to Elizabeth Noble, who also wrote the book "Essential Exercises for the Childbearing Year," for an article about positions that can help relieve discomforts of pregnancy. And in that conversation she shared this revelation with me:

"What pregnancy does is reveal to a woman her strengths and weaknesses in her muskuloskeletal system. She would have those problems eventually."

Wowza, huh?

So here we are going around blaming our pregnancies for this or for that (ahem pelvic floor disorder, anyone?) when we actually have our pregnancies to thank for getting us to, and addressing, our future body sooner. Of course, ideally we should prevent those problems in the first place, but we have so much working against us... like chairs and cars and computers and televisions...

Anyhow, "those problems" almost always have everything to do with a weak pelvic floor. I believe increased athletic activity can also illuminate pelvic floor weakness in the same way a pregnancy can. When you're demanding a lot from your body and you have muscle imbalances and pelvic floor weakness--where, begins the genesis of our movement--the low back, knees, hips, even feet, will eventually feel the effects of those weaknesses.

Noble, who also is an anthropologist and founder of the Section on Womens Health at the American Physical Therapy Association, echoed a strategy heard here before by Katy Bowman: Start squatting.

She said, "The pelvic floor attaches to the external rotators of the hips; when you come out of a squat, you tighten the pelvic floor." The problem, she added, is that few people in the western world squat anymore. Even when she travels to Asian countries even the younger people aren't squatting like their grannies.

I found this passage in her book interesting:
The comforts of modern life have more and more removed us from the routine physical work that compensates for these structural weaknesses by muscular development. We sit too much. We use laundry dryers instead of bending and stretching at the line. If you ever drive a car without power steering, or use a manual typewriter after an electronic keyboard, you have felt how labor-saving devices make us weak. Worst of all the "modern improvements" is the water commode--the porcelain throne on which people sit to perform functions that should happen only in squatting. Alas, around the world squat toilets are disappearing and pelvic problems for both men and women are increasing in proportion.
She told me she squats on her toilet seat. "I climb on to them," she said. "I put my feet on the rim of the toilet. It can be a dangerous position; one day my foot slid in." She also said there are platforms people can buy or make to modify their toilets so they can squat on them.

Naturally, I had to try.


It was high time I cleaned my bathroom floor anyway. Part of the failure was that I was trying to watch (wouldn't you, I mean, to make sure you hit the target?) but in bending my neck down, I also tilted my pelvis forward. That meant missing the bowl. Another obstacle: this can't be done with panties around your ankles.

While the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation is in the process of reinventing the toilet for the developing world, we might ask to include a new design for industrial countries so we can take back our pelvic floor.

Meanwhile, I harken back to Katy Bowman's advice: just use your shower to squat and pee.

What else did Elizabeth Noble leave me with? She says if you have to sit, sit on an exercise ball. I sat on one when I worked while pregnant but had since gone back to the chair. Now I'm back on the ball (as I type this on Sunday afternoon my 2-year old is sitting on it behind me and bouncing mightily).

Which brings me to something else she said (a side story? more background? information to support my point? Hell, I don't know anymore) that's worth repeating: The exercises that are good for you to do in pregnancy are good for you to do for the rest of your life.

Keep up those post-partum exercises. F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

Everything I know about pelvic floor health is posted on my website,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Update #8 from Mamacat

Back when we started following Mamacat's journey to becoming a Hot (Sweaty) Mama, her goal was to finish the Bloomington Iron Girl Duathlon on September 25, now less than two weeks away. Girlfriend is ready. How do I know? Because she was able to pre-empt this goal with her first triathlon on August 27.

I think someone has the bug and couldn't wait to compete.

I got to hear all about that first triathlon finish the next week when we trained together on a 20-mile ride and 15-minute run (by the way, it was her idea to go farther than we planned). What she knows, and will reminded every time she finishes a hard workout or steps over another finish line, is something we say in Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom about crossing over from "exercise as dreaded task" to fitness as a lifestyle:
The reason exercise becomes habit-forming is because it provides you with a sense of power over your life: You can control what you do with your day and take time to do something that makes you feel good. It literally makes you feel strong and powerful. Exercise is a bridge between mind and body, and it empowers them both. Once you're been exposed to that power (like the endorphins) it's hard to give up. This positive force is self-perpetuating. Now fitness is more than a habit; it's a lifestyle.
You'll see what I mean as Mamacat shares her race experience. She is definitely in a place where her fitness is self-perpetuating. In her words:
I'm am overjoyed to report I finished my first triathlon, something I never in my wildest dreams would have guessed I'd ever say. There was as much mental effort as their was physical effort involved in me getting to this point. But I did it. I had all the tools, all the support and all the drive. Had I never read Hot (Sweaty) Mamas, I never would have dreamed that I'm not the only woman to struggle with finding time or more importantly, find the WILL to make it happen.  
The thing I kept with me the whole race was Kara's encouraging words the night before the race: "you have trained for this, you are ready"...without that mantra, I may have given up before getting across the start line. She was right, though, I did train and I was ready. Was I a, but I had worked for this and was able to apply both endurance and free will to cross that finish line.  
Mamacat in pink, just steps away from her first triathlon finish.
WHAT A FEELING. Better than any job promotion I had ever received, which is noteworthy because so often it was work that stopped me from finding time for fitness. My kids and my husband were so proud, which is noteworthy because it took away the guilt I had put upon myself when I choose to run, bike or swim instead of get an extra time with them. My body did it, which is noteworthy because of all those times I told myself I never could and it never could...and then it did! And I feel so much better these days...why would I ever deny myself this healthful way of life? 
I was so elated to finish this triathlon that I signed up for a second one just one week before the  Iron Girl Duathlon. Who'd a thought? I'm as nervous for the Iron Girl as I am excited. All those women. Athletes. Racing against themselves. Racing against each other. Pushing their bodies to peak levels of fitness and knowing the reward of accomplishment awaits at the end. And no matter what, NO ONE CAN EVER TAKE THAT AWAY from you. How awesome.  
My Moms on the Run comrades were so supportive and all Hot (Sweaty) Mamas for crossing their own finish line at the Silvera Run the same day of my triathlon. I wish I could have run with them but I was there in spirit and now glad to be back with them for the fall program. 
My husband was so inspired by my inspiration that he's hogging my Hot (Sweaty) Mamas book, a book that I pick up often just for a little mental juice to keep me motivated and trying new ways to make time, take time, share time or snare time. He's replacing "mom" with "dad" and starting his own journey of fitness par excellence! (Man, talk about smoking me on the bike trail yesterday!) 
Less than two weeks until the Iron Girl and less than one week until the next tri. I'm committed....100% committed! 

What about you, is your fitness self-perpetuating? Crossing a finish line is powerful for a lot of people (me and Mamacat included) but if you're not one to register for an event, what is it that empowers you?