Easy Workout: Run the Dogs

Spring in Arizona: The days are getting longer, the afternoons are getting hotter, but the mornings are just getting gorgeouser.

Longer days + my later work schedule = waking up to nature’s alarm clock. The sun starts creeping in about 6:30 and I tried to fight it for the last few weeks, but this week I decided to embrace it.

When I took my new job, I really wanted to use the morning hours I was used to being up and at work anyway. It has worked, but more often than not, it has failed miserably. Not this week – and it wasn’t even a huge commitment.

When the sun woke me up about 40 minutes before I HAVE to get up, instead of fighting it for those 40 minutes, I laced up and took the pups for runs! This is the most genius thing I have done in a while, which is why I’m so excited to tell you. It’s probably common sense to everybody else and their mom, but for me, it took a while to get there.

(Yes, pups plural. Allow me to introduce Lily-girl, she is Sean’s dog.

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She’s a beautiful mutt – he was told boxer mix, but she turned out to be a tall and skinny medium-sized girl who looks more like a lab, whippet, Great Dane, maybe pointer of some sort, but everyone always tells us how gorgeous she is – her coat is super shiny! Sean got her as a puppy just a few weeks after we started dating and now, of course, we’re all together.)

Rigo is a racer and Lily is a bit of a klutz, so they can’t go together (maybe some day!), so one at a time, we go for a mile run. Then I do a few chores around the house, wait to stop sweating, take a shower and start my day – NBD.

Rigos happy post-run face

Rigos happy post-run face

We got these in three days this week and it was amazing because:

1. They got exercise so they wouldn’t go crazypants being in all day. 

2. I got exercise so if something came up after work and I had to skip my “real” workout, at least I got something for the day.

3. exercise-gives-you-endorphins

True story. I even made Sean’s lunch one morning – out of the goodness of my endorphin-loving heart. Running + sunshine is really just an amazing way to start the day.

4. As I said, Rigo’s a sprinter, but Lily’s no lazy girl, she keeps a pretty good pace. Our runs have been faster than my normal pace, which is great tempo training for my upcoming Pat’s Run.

5. I didn’t feel guilty about staying in bed when I was awake and could have been doing something more productive.

6. It’s good preparation for the summer when morning workouts will be the only option – if even that…there will probably be some days it’s just too hot for them.

So, that’s my life/exercise hack for the day – an easy-to-commit-to workout that kills about six stones with two little miles.

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Professional Underwear

Okay, first we talk underwear, then we talk professional. My good friend, Rachel, who motivates me to do lots of fun things, running and otherwise, made this happen last weekend:

UNdy5000

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Yep, in undies in downtown Phoenix at the Undy 5000, a 5K to benefit the Colon Cancer Alliance and celebrate survivors.

I started off feeling good, but too strong because I had to pull back. I didn’t finish near where I would have liked at 32:03, but it was a gorgeous day and I ran in my underwear downtown (okay, not MY underwear).

The good news this month is…I started a new job! I am the marketing director for a top luxury real estate team in North Scottsdale. Remember way back when when I got my real estate license? Well, that came in handy, so now I’m helping the team market their listings and build their business and I can still sell houses too!

It was very hard to leave my last company I’d been with for three years and the people I worked with. On a more selfish level, one thing I always knew would be particularly hard would be giving up my morning bird hours.

In financial services, I worked the stock market hours, which in Arizona is 6 or 7 (depending on the time of the year because we don’t do daylight savings, shutupdontjudgeus) to 3 or 4. How wonderful is it to be done with work by 4 and have all late afternoon and evening for myself? Very wonderful.

The new job? 9 to 5! When I first learned that, I was wondering what the heck I was going to do with the first two hours of my day. Even on the weekends, I’m up by 7, but apparently, during my first week, I decided to sleep with the first two hours of my day!

I didn’t know I’d have to set an alarm to go to work by 9, but a. learning a new position is mentally exhausting, so I was tired and b. my bed is so comfy and I actually ended up sleeping in.

Today, though, I decided it was time. I was adjusted to the new routine and I was ready to add another layer to it. I got 5 tempo-y miles in. Still getting used to the tempo runs, but I know it’s the only way to improve my times. Morning runs are awesome, btw. Great weather, great views and a great feeling of accomplishment before my first cup of coffee!

Next up? Tackling adding new yoga classes in, since the schedule doesn’t really work with my much-loved 4:30 classes 😦

Next up tonight? Eating the chicken enchiladas that are cooking (a hot mess of about three different recipes) and catching up on this week’s Walking Dead.

Workout Giant: Pre-Work Yoga

I used to be such a morning workout snob. I only wanted to workout in the morning and if I didn’t, it was sooo hard for me to do it later in the day.

Training for races got me over that because I knew the workouts had to be done one way or another and when longish runs were scheduled on weekdays, it was suck it up and wake up at 4am or suck it up and do it after work, so I learned to workout after work.

Yoga also got me out of my morning workout rut because I had to go when the classes were and most were in the early evening.  However, since joining my gym over the summer, there’s been one class that’s piqued my interest. The only yoga class they offer in the early morning is at 5:30 on Mondays. It totally appeals to my desire to get in a good workout and have the rest of the day to do other things, but it’s at 5:30! On Monday!

I finally decided to do it yesterday and knowing I’d be pretty disappointed in myself if I didn’t, I actually got up with my alarm, no excuses.

It wasn’t as crowded as their other classes, so it was workshoppy in a good way. The flows were great, but I found it a little difficult to push myself that early. I was definitely not very loose, which was my concern about hopping out of bed and into downward dog in the first place, and although this level of class is supposed to be slightly heated, it really wasn’t, so I didn’t have much help getting any looser.

I call it a workout giant because it’s something I’ve wanted to do, but have been intimidated to try for a while, so I let the jump rope circle a couple times. I’m glad I finally jumped in and it’s a nice option for those times I have a packed post-work schedule, but if I have the time, I’ll probably stick to my night class where the instructor plays too-loud music and sweats on me, but hey, that’s supposed to be a blessing, right?

False Confidence

I’ve been trying to take at least one of my twice weekly runs outside, partially because I don’t see the point in going to the gym to run on the treadmill for the itty bitty times my training calls for and partially because I miss running outside.

Well, make that…I think I miss running outside until I do it and fail miserably. It’s hot, I can’t keep my pace up and I end up walking way more than I would like and I’m still sore afterward. What’s up with that?

My treadmill runs have been decent but have given me a false sense of confidence about where my running ability is these days.  On the treadmill (in a climate-controlled environment, with entertainment and my pride), I can still rock out a pretty decent run, but that was so not my experience outside this morning.

Earlier this summer I was knocking out double-digits for fun, but now that my runs are time-based, my endurance is down down down. I know that I traded it for increased swim and bike endurance to get me through all the legs of my tri and more than that, I know this is when running becomes a mental sport because I know my legs and lungs can do it for me…

BUT…I’m definitely looking forward to picking out my next mid-distance race and training for mileage again this fall, you know, like when it’s not hot as hell outside and when (knock on unrotted wood), I will be moving very close to an amazing running area!

Running > Sleep

You know what the nicest thing someone can say to you is?

“Wow, you look tired.”

Yep, got that one the other day at work. In my defense,  I go to work at 6:45 in the morning.  I had just walked in and I was still sleepy. 

And in my boss’s defense, men need constant refresher courses in how to talk to women I usually have been up for two hours and worked out so I’m wide awake by the time I get to work and let’s be honest, I usually avoid coworkers for the first hour anyway.

Pre-work workouts have all but become extinct around these parts.  I’m going to bed plenty early (hello, falling asleep after getting in bed to catch up on Glee on Hulu at 8pm), so maybe it’s restless sleep due to a tight muscle/pinched nerve in my neck or allergies or a combination, maybe it’s the fact that my new phone has two alarms, so if I turn off the run alarm, I’ll still be woken up by my work alarm. 

But I’m going to go with:  I can’t get out of bed to work out before work lately because I’ve gotten out of the habit.  Because I’m thinking more about sleep when that first alarm goes off instead of “you are going to rock this run.” 

My morning get-outta-bed-to-workout mantra used to be, “you’ll regret it if you don’t, but you won’t regret it if you do,” which is still quite true, but after years of AM workouts, I also know that THIS is true:  “you’ll feel better after the run than you would after more sleep.”

So this morning.  I snoozed for a bit, but I got up and went running.  An ugly run, for sure, but a run nonetheless.

While enjoying the sights and sounds of a Scottsdale springtime dawn, I contemplated how sometimes it feels like my self-worth is tied to my motivation to work out, which waxes and wanes but that’s okay, because while getting up and working out makes me feel better, it’s simply those lovely endorphins, not an actual comment on my always-awesomesauce self.

The run loosened up my neck and I’m feeling less puffy and stuffy from allergies today and I finally went into work bright-eyed and bushy-tailed again.

Junk

I woke up this morning at 4:30.  Then I realized that was insane because Wednesdays are for junk runs and I’m slow, but I definitely don’t need 90 minutes to run the four miles I had planned. 

So I checked my email, reset my alarm and went back to sleep.  Did you catch that?  What can I say?  They don’t call it a Crackberry for nothing.

Now, there really is no need to check my email first thing because do you know what kind of emails get sent in the middle of the night?  Junk emails.  If I get another email telling me my information probably got jacked (thanks, Epsilon), I’ll scream. 

However, last night I also received a message from my first love.

And by first love, of course I mean the organization that put on my first 10K last fall and gave me the race bug.  They’re back with details for this year’s race

Although skin cancer and sun protection is a cause near and dear to my heart, I had kind of already ruled out doing that race in favor of others.  You know, races that won’t remind me that last year I was hung over (maybe still a little drunk) on race morning aren’t run through the ghetto of Mesa.  Plus, Shun the Sun is shortly after what I’m referring to as the month o’weddings and I probably won’t have the time to train for it.

Still that email apparently got me thinking and when I went back to sleep I had another one of those weird dreams that reminds me why I shouldn’t fall back asleep after intending to wake up for a workout.  It was race morning and I was late picking up my packet and some mom with an Ariel – you know, The Little Mermaid – lunch box was taking her sweet time in front of me and I was essentially missing the race.

Which, I guess was because at the time I was missing my junk run, but I woke up again at 5 (yes, I did get a lot accomplished in that half hour, thank you for noticing) and headed out.  My junk runs have been tough lately and today was no exception.  My legs were screaming at me that I need some more QT with my foam roll plus I thought it might be chilly, but three minutes in I was ready to swap my capris and tee for shorts and a tank.

My goal was under 40 minutes based on a Facebook status from a runner friend (competitive much?) lamenting that his first run back took him 38:something for four miles and made him want to throw in the towel altogether.  I’d take it.  Like I said, I’m slow and I’m okay with that.  Sometimes it’s a tough run and that’s fine.  Somehow I still find it fun.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that running is essential to my wellness and I’m not talking just physical health! 

Oh, and of course I finished under 40, rocking reverse splits, which is my favorite new personal challenge during my runs.

T is for Thursday. And Tempo.

My legs have not wanted to participate in tempo runs since I started my Pat’s Run training, but today was different.  I bounced out of bed at 4:30am and completed my first successful (well, mostly) tempo run!

After a warm-up (aka, jogging to Blockbuster to return my latest movie), I did 3.33 miles in 30:08.  If I can do that pace on race day, I’ll come in just under my goal of 38 for the 4.2 miles! 

HOWEVER…I say it was “mostly” successful because there may have been some pausing and walking it off at the miles (I love the auto-lap feature on my Garmin that chirps at every mile – quite helpful when it’s still dark).  A few times I wanted to call it good, but I was feeling particularly stubborn this morning and as cliche as it is, I wanted to finish what I started – 30 minutes at race pace one way or another!

I feel good about it and being just about four weeks out, there’s definitely time for improvement! 

Now, I’m off to wreck my training* for tomorrow with a pint (or two).  Happy St. Patty’s Day! 

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* Tomorrow calls for cross training (hello, Meyer) and strength.  That sesh will definitely NOT be taking place at 4:30am!

I WILL Run Today

Plan A:  Four miles on Wednesday morning.

Plan B:  Two margaritas + a late (for me) bedtime on Tuesday.

Plan C:  Swap Wednesday’s miles for Friday’s cross-training.

Plan D:  Do 7:42 (yeah, seriously, SEVEN minutes…for shame!) on the elliptical then go back home, go back to bed, sleep in 45 minutes past second alarm, be 30 minutes late to work.

And that’s where we are now.  I have back-up plans for tonight as well though, don’t you worry.

Plan E:  Squeeze in the four miles before my massage, assume that the masseuse has smelled worse.

Plan F:  Stay late at work since I was late getting in, think longingly of the running shoes I have in my car and give up on the excitement of running a new route around the spa.

Plan G:  Run post-massage, which is what I was trying to avoid so that I could just be blissed out and unwind on a stupid Wednesday night. Decide to reward myself for being so dedicated to training that I gave up being blissed out, but then remember it’s officially Lent and I have successfully taken away all of my go-to rewards.  Watch Being Erica on Hulu in bed, fall asleep 15 minutes in.

But…I WILL run today.

On Sore Muscles and Terrorists

Currently, I’m exerting a lot of effort to make it look like I’m not exerting a lot effort.  I want to do the old-lady groan every time I get out of my chair and grimace as I shuffle around.

My strength training session yesterday was awesome and by awesome I mean, damn.  Thank you very much, jumping bench lunges. 

Like this:

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…and then you jump on the up. 

I recently got into a debate about whether a fit, active person should be sore after strength training.  I think so.  I like to feel like I worked my muscles.  Strength training is essentially breaking down your muscle fibers and having them rebuild (stronger and bigger). 

That being said, there are things I could have done yesterday to ease the soreness at least a little, that I kinda, sorta, maybe neglected.  I left the gym and planned on stretching and foam rolling at home, but this is the downside of having a foam roller at home.  Once I was there, I was distracted by other things. (Like McDonald’s oatmeal!)

In a perfect world, I would have rolled and stretched right after and then again last night while watching the Oscars. Lesson learned. Moving on…

I’m also currently kicking myself for not getting up and going to the gym this morning.  It’s so hard on Mondays!  I’m squeezing it in later (post-work, pre-volunteer meeting, pre-date…since when am I actually busy?!), so that’s not a big deal.  The big deal is that when I snooze my gym alarm, my mind gets back at me with awful dreams during that extra hour of sleep. 

Seriously.  This morning it was being held hostage by terrorists.  They were kinda nice, you know, for terrorists, but I would have been much better off at the gym!  I’ll take sore muscles any day.

Gym Shopping

I picked up running four years ago when my roommate moved out very suddenly.  I had to make some cuts and my gym membership was the first thing to go, but I wanted to keep working out, so I hit the pavement.  When I could afford it, I joined a few different gyms here and there. 

I fell in love with running, but I really like having a gym to fall back on.  When I don’t have a specific training plan for the day, I find going to the gym to be like going to Fresh & Easy when you’re not sure what you want for dinner.  You’ll figure something out and the results will be favorable!

I started a three-month membership at a big gym here when I recently moved, but it just ran out. Despite not really using it, I’m itching to join a gym now so I toured a new one earlier this week.  I really wanted to like it.  But I hated it.  It got me thinking about what makes a good gym (to me).

  1. Location, location, location.  The closer the gym, the more likely I am to go. 
  2. Hours that work with my schedule.  I’m used to a particular gym that is open 24 hours.  Not to name names.  I know not all gyms are, but if a gym isn’t open early enough to make pre-work workouts a possibility or if they open too late on the weekends, it’s not going to work for me.
  3. Conveniently-timed classes.  I used to love my pre-work spin classes, but my schedule has changed and now I’ll settle for a handful of good classes after work and on the weekends.
  4. My must-haves– spin, kickboxing and a pool. 
  5. A friend or family member who goes to the same gym.  I’m okay with going on my own, but over the years I’ve always been more consistent when I had a friend going with me.
  6. A good vibe.  All the other things that affect how you feel about the gym.  If you’re not comfortable with where you’re working out, you just won’t go!  Plain and simple.

Basically ALL these things were not working for this new gym. My gym at my apartment complex works for now.  I have my running.  And there are a few more gyms to try out if I go through any major withdrawals.

What are your must-haves and deal-breakers when it comes to a gym?

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