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Getting the Extra Push

23 Mar
Courtesy of Greg Fisher

Courtesy of Mayor Greg Fischer

Last week, I told you about my BFF who completed the United NYC Half Marathon. Appreciative of the love, she returned it kind with a message on Facebook.

I should have posted that while Cicely calls me her hero, there have been plenty of moments in my running life where I’ve wanted to give it up. But, I knew she’d kill me and/or would never let me live it down. So, if it weren’t for her, my butt wouldn’t have made it to the start line Sunday (literally and figuratively). So thanks, Boo!

Sometimes, we all need someone to give us the extra push when we feel like giving up. Sometimes its a text to Beth, a quick word from my workout nanny or even a reminder from my dad that even though my weight-loss journey is traveled alone, I can’t just give up anytime I like.

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Courtesy of Mayor Greg Fischer

That’s why I almost teared up at the story of Asia Ford, who ran the Rodes City Run 10k in Louisville, Ky., over the weekend. Asia made the mistake that runners have been making since…forever. She forgot to eat before the start and nearly conked out at mile 4. With the pace car behind her, she struggled to keep going until her son and a police officer took her by the hands and helped her on her way. Asia finished the race in two hours seven minutes.

Running is nothing if not a community. If you’re looking, you don’t have to search hard to find a running group. The organization Black Girls Run has memberships across the country. Just in New York, there are groups by neighborhoods.

Beyond that, there’s a sense of belonging even when out by yourself. When I dropped Beth off at the race last week, I ran home in solidarity. It was a little after 7 a.m. and the sun hadn’t quite risen yet. But I knew there would be a troupe of runners along the path with me. You tend to see the same faces on your morning run. You’ll notice the same physical strains you had when observing a newbie. You’ll try to keep pace with that one guy who always passes you by.

Asia posted to Facebook several “before” photos of her and friends excited to hit the trail. But it’s the photo of her finishing with her son and the police officer by her side that show what this community is made of. We are a group of competitive people who are ready to cheer on another runner because we know how hard it is to keep going.

So, cheers to you Asia Ford for keeping it moving even when you thought you couldn’t. And double cheers to your son and new friend Lt. Aubrey Gregory for not letting her give up on her goal of finishing.

This 6.2 miles meant more to me than any race ever so my message today is, You don’t have to be 1st, AS LONG AS U DON’T GIVE UP AND U FINISH…YOU ARE A WINNER~Asia Ford

My Friend the Half Marathoner

18 Mar

Did I ever tell you I had a twin? My dad, who’s probably reading this right now, is just now finding out about this himself.

Her skin is much lighter, as are her eyes. She was born 339,840 minutes before me. She likes to say she was slathered in the SPF while my melanin-rich skin absorbed the benefits of Vitamin D.

ussies_halfThis is Beth. Obviously we’re not identical. We are, however, each other’s spiritual twins. We bonded over a love of journalism and a strong disdain for idiocy. For the past 15 years, we’ve been each other’s rocks during some pretty awful times. And although we haven’t lived in the same city since we were 22, we have remained ridiculously close. Which was why there was no question that she would stay with me last weekend while she was in town for the United Airlines NYC Half marathon.

Neither Beth nor I were runners in our younger days. It’s just something we picked up, her before me. So when I began pounding the pavement, she was one of the people I turned to for advice. When I scratched up my boobs by putting my cards in my bra, she got the first text (and responded that she couldn’t stop laughing at me). When I finally ran three miles without stopping, she was the first person to say how proud she was of me. And when my knee began to act in its funky way, she was the one to suggest all the things I could do so I could continue on my path.

If she could do all that, then I could make sure she had everything she needed for her race. This was the first time she’d ever run in New York. Her visits usually involve a show, a new tourist-y site and food. We walk around the city long enough to build up an appetite before seeing a show.

Like most of us, she was nervous before the race. Racing can be stressful, especially when you’re dealing with unfamiliar terrain. When you run, you can stop at anytime and not feel like a failure. Races have a set goal in the end. You’re not done unless you cross the finish line. When you’re competitive like us, anything less is unacceptable.

The day of the race, we woke up at 5:30 in the morning (Lord, help us) to make sure she got to the starting line on time. First of all, waking up in the dark is not the business. We were early, so neither of us was happy about that extra half our of sleep we could have gotten. Second of all, it was cold as a polar bear’s balls that morning. The forecast said it would warm up, but the wind was so harsh that we couldn’t tell.

She's a winner!

She’s a winner!

Once the crowd started rolling in, I sent her on her way and ran the 100 blocks back to my apartment. My solidarity run had my fingers freezing, but it was only five miles and I just needed to suck it up. Beth did 13.1 miles in under two-and-a-half hours. My twin is my hero and deserves all the props.

A few tips before you set off running:

  1. When going preparing for a race, be it a 5K or a marathon, your best bet is to train. You’ll learn what your pace is, how to manage your breathing and what your endurance level is. There are books, magazines, websites and trainers in abundance who can get you ready in a matter of weeks for your race.
  2. Have a few race-day outfits at the ready if you’ll be running during a tricky weather season. New York just shoveled it’s way out of a month of snow, but the temps haven’t risen enough to know it’s almost spring.
  3. Know that hydration is key to keeping it moving. For longer races, you may need more than just hydration though. Beth keeps the squeezable applesauce packs on her belt for an energy boost. Race organizers will often have those as well as race gels.

Daytime Diva vs. Nighttime Ninja

9 Mar
Courtesy of Tumblr

Courtesy of Tumblr

It’s no secret that I’ve been lamenting the snow-pac-ageddon of 2015. The winter blues have made it all but impossible for me to wake up in the morning. And when I do keep my eyes open longer than 10 minutes, the comfort of my bed won’t set me free. My bed holds me hostage in the morning because it knows that eventually I’ll have to deal with the ridiculous cold that awaits me.

So instead of torturing myself with an early wake-up call, I’ve been working out after work. Sometimes I’ll actually go to the gym if I feel like being a bag lady. For the most part, though, I’ve been coming home to make use of my exercise DVDs and some videos on Hulu (an excellent source of material, btw).

Right as I was getting comfortable in my routine, this happened.

snow_melt

Courtesy of Tumblr

 

The sun is finally shining! The temperature is finally rising above 12 degrees. I don’t have to wear my grungy puffer coat. With the time change and the impending warmth comes a return to my daytime active lifestyle. We’re in the finicky weather season, so I won’t be getting up too early. But I can feel myself readying for the sunshiny days ahead. Running on the path. Morning yoga classes. Early boot camp.

Being a nighttime ninja served its purpose to prevent me from being too slovenly. For me, though, daytime diva is where it’s at. Still, I learned a few things about myself during the long, dark, cold days of winter.

1. Winter mornings suck. I forgot how depressing it can be to wake up in the morning and it still be dark outside. I don’t have to be at work until 11 a.m. Imagine waking up at 7:30 in the morning and it still being pitch black outside? Nothing makes your bed more comfortable that the dark of night…or day.

2. Population control. There are even fewer people in the gym at night than there are in the early afternoon. Because my work hours are so wonky, I’m coming into the gym right after the post-work crowd finishes its sweat-a-thon. It’s an in-between time where gym staff can really wipe down the machines (not the half-ass wipes they get from preoccupied gym rats). It fills my need for quiet.

3. Hunger games. Working out at home has made me hyper aware of my kitchen. It’s not like I woke up one morning and was surprised by my fridge. It’s moreso that post-workout meals seemed even more important. And those meals seemed to be larger. I’m not on any workout plan right now, so I haven’t been portioning out my meals. So the spinach, chick-pea, pasta salad was run through pretty quickly. As were my Mott’s Mango Peach applesauces. And, of course, my goldfish crackers. Working out in the daytime will definitely give me better dietary focus.

4. I can’t wait for winter to be over. I miss running in the park. I miss not having to strap on 10-15 extra layers of clothes, undergarments and coats. I miss the ease of a morning workout. It seemed like less of a chore when I was doing it in warmer weather. Winter workouts feel like a punishment, especially in the mornings. At night, it feels like a continuation of the workday, not a way to start the day.

There are 11 days until spring. But with the weather warming up, I’ll return to daytime diva status in no time.

How (Not) to Lose 10 Pounds in a Week

4 Mar

I rarely gamble. I’m not a fan of it. I play the lottery maybe twice a year. I rarely go to casinos, and when I do, I don’t gamble. There’s a higher chance of failure with gambling than there is of winning. My money does better for me when it’s in my pocket.

I liken gambling to get-rich-quick schemes. There’s always a hidden cost that you weren’t prepared for. Those emails from Nigerian princes asking you to hold their millions in your account? Those phone calls from random utility operators saying you’re paying too much, even though you’re using the only utility available in your area? Publisher’s Clearinghouse? It’s all a scam to make you think that hard work isn’t the way to get things done.

The same thing goes for quick-fix diet scams. “Eat this, lose 10 pounds in a week.” “Just five minutes a day and you’ll drop 20 pounds in a week.” “The only diet pill you’ll need to get bikini ready in just two weeks.” I call bullshit.

Nothing worth having is easy to get. If you read the small print on these ads, they’ll always say the results aren’t typical. Nine times out of 10, you’ll be the rule, not the exception.

People often ask me how I lost the weight. The simple answer is diet and exercise. But if you have a half hour, I can give you a rundown. I started preparing my meals at the beginning of the week and portioned them out so I wouldn’t overindulge. I made sure to schedule my workouts into my day, leaving room for the sudden happy hour or late night at work. I always had a Plan B if my scheduled workout wouldn’t work out that day. I can mentally calculate all the calories I’m consuming versus the amount of energy I’m expending.

That’s just the truncated version, and I still never lost 10 pounds in one week.

You’ll see shows like “The Biggest Loser” and think to yourself, if they can do it, why can’t I? It’s because you have a life outside the show. While you’re sitting at home watching these people’s journey toward a healthier life, they’re on a treadmill or eating one egg white every five hours, with a handful of raw almonds in between. It’s not practical.

We all have lives to lead. I’m not saying losing 10 pounds in one week isn’t possible. Anything’s possible. But does that make it right? I don’t think so.

This journey is a rough one. It is filled with starts and stops. The thing I want people to realize is that you should start with realistic expectations. Ten pounds in one week? Sure…if you chop off your arm. Ten pounds in two weeks? Very possible with a very strict diet and workout regimen. Ten pounds in three weeks? Totally doable, still with a strict diet and workout regimen. Plus, if you hit your target in two weeks, the third week’s weight loss is bonus points (if that’s what you were looking for).

Think about short-term and long-term goals and what’s achievable in that time. Don’t let the stress of losing weight make you gamble on a magic pill.

What quick-fix routines have you seen lately? How do you keep focused on your short- and long-term goals?

Front Row Seat

4 Feb
When it comes to workout mentality, Tracy Flick is my hero. Courtesy of Bitch Flicks

When it comes to workout mentality, Tracy Flick is my hero.
Courtesy of Bitch Flicks

I have a friend whom I’ve known since we were 11 years old. When we were in sixth grade, I hated him. He liked to pick on me. And don’t give me the crap about he just liked me. No, he really just liked to pick on me.

We didn’t really become friends until middle school when I helped tutor him with algebra. Now he’s my best friend. However, to this day he still likes to tease me. He’s just not so mean about it. What he really likes to do is remind me of how much of a nerd I was in school. Anytime I’m starting to feel myself a little too much, he reminds me of my tinted glasses and constant hand-raising in class.

I don’t deny it: I was a good student. I made all As and Bs and didn’t get into any real trouble. There were certain classes where I liked to sit close to the front if I could. My last name starts with a “D,” so that wasn’t usually a problem.

My need to excel in learning has carried over into my fitness life. I love being in the front of the spin or Zumba class. And I’m not alone.

The New York Times recently ran an article about the people who like to “Race to the Front Row.”

One instructor called the students who dash to the front of class the Tracy Flicks of exercise class and said they tend to be Type A. Okay, I’ll take it.

tracyflick

I wasn’t always this way. When I began my weight-loss journey, I was weird kid in class. I kept to the back in each session, praying no one would notice me. It can be incredibly nerve-wracking working out in front of strangers. Add to it doing synchronized movements to an EDM beat and you’ve got a recipe for embarrassment.

It wasn’t uncommon for me just stop in the middle of a Zumba routine and wait for the next sequence to make up for it. You could often see me (if you turned around) stop pedaling up “seated hills” in spin class because my thighs just couldn’t take the pain anymore. And don’t get me started on boot camp. Let’s just say I was a very slow learner there.

But how you begin is not how you’ll end. After a while, my dance past came back to me and I was moving to the Zumba beat. I still hate “seated hills,” but I can keep the pedals moving nonstop. Boot camp is still an issue, but it’s not the death of me as it once was.

The scramble happens only in the most sought-after classes, where a place up front is a status symbol, akin to sitting front row at a concert or fashion show.—nytimes.com

Now that I’ve got the hang of things, I’m able to move to the head of the class. A new spin instructor even said it was a pleasure to have me in the front of class! That compliment allowed me to let my geek flag fly. I was back in middle and high school getting praise from the instructor, and it felt great.

Sitting behind people who don’t know what they’re doing is annoying. Newbies tend to want to be up front so they can see the instructor, while old-heads like myself want to avoid the distraction of newbies…by sitting up front. So what’s the compromise?

I think there’s middle ground where old-heads can occupy the first row and maybe scooch their bikes over a bit so newbies can occupy the second row. That way they’ll see the instructor and have a real person who knows what they’re doing as reference. In Zumba or boot camp, the same applies: leave room for the newbies to see the instructor.

We’re all there to sweat it out and we’ve got to find room to co-exist.

Do you see yourself as a front-row warrior or a back-seat bandit?