Tag Archives: treadmill

Looking For My Mojo

18 Jan

Last year I had a dismal season of running, but in spite of that, I enjoyed just enough success in order to ask myself: If I can set these PB’s (personal bests) with such a patchy season, what will I be capable of if I actually train properly?

Unfortunately, my dismal season has been followed by an even more dismal off-season. Usually, I manage to keep going in the winter, even if it’s endless boring runs on the treadmill at the gym. This time round, I just haven’t seemed to have it in me.

I have run a mere handful of times since my half-marathon in October, and I have not run at all since participating in the Resolution Run on New Years Day. I tell myself that my dearth of running is due to a pinched nerve in my back followed almost immediately by a cold, but how much of that is true? And how much of it is merely an excuse?

In two weeks’ time, I will be starting my 2012 season of training. I have a coach – someone who knows what she’s doing, knows what I’m capable of and will not hesitate to hold me accountable if she sees me slacking off. Despite my recent form, I have motivation. I have goals and I fully intend to accomplish them.

And so I decided that today I was going to run, come hell or high water. I diligently laid out my running clothes and packed my gym bag. I set my alarm last night and went to bed.

Only to wake up a full half-hour after I was supposed to. What had happened to the alarm? Clearly I had not set it right. My run would have to wait another day.

Immediately, I put a stop to that line of thinking. Come hell or high water, remember? I accessed my work email, clicked onto my calendar, and saw that I had a nice clear block of time right around lunchtime. I scheduled it in as running time, repacked my gym bag, and took it to work with me.

During the course of the morning, I discovered that an independently run gym right beside my office had been taken over by the fitness club group that I’m a member of. Sweet! This meant I would not have to go schlepping around on the subway in order to get my run in.

At the gym, I got onto a treadmill and set it for 35 minutes. I had been out of it for a while – no need to push myself on the distance when my main goal was simply to get back into it.

I’m not too hung up on the distance I covered, mainly because I don’t actually know what it was. The distance that my training watch tells me is probably inaccurate. I have not recalibrated my foot pod since replacing its battery. And because the treadmill has a built-in TV screen with full cable access, I wasn’t paying attention to the stats on the display.

I was more concerned with how hard it was, how exhausted I felt. I gave serious thought to stopping after 24 minutes, but I knew that would leave me feeling dissatisfied. I took a thirty-second walking break, and then resumed running at a slightly slower pace. And somehow, I made it for the full 35 minutes. I wasn’t hurting, and I wasn’t out of breath – I was just tired.

As I reflect on the run, I have a choice. I can feel bad about how hard it was and how exhausted I felt. Or I can feel good about the fact that I did what I set out to do anyway. I do believe this short run gave me the kick-start I’ve been needing to get myself on the go again.

Have I rediscovered my running mojo? Perhaps not entirely – not yet – but it’s very close, lurking somewhere nearby.

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Running In The Rain

3 Aug

This morning I woke up to the gentle pitter-patter of rain against the window.

Actually, that’s a lie. I woke up to the alarm on my phone going off, making a blaring, raucous noise that set every single one of my nerve endings on edge.

Once my central nervous system had gotten over the initial shock of being awake, then I heard the gentle pitter-patter of rain against the window.

Damn.

I wanted to go running, and I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to run in the rain. Thanks to all of the dental goings-on of the last few days, it had been about a week since I had run at all. I was not in the mood for dodging puddles and having rain drip into my eyes. I was in the mood for a nice, uncomplicated run that didn’t require any actual thinking.

Who’s in any fit state to think at five in the morning, anyway?

I had a choice to make. Don’t run at all, run in the rain, or run on the treadmill.

I knew that not running at all would lead to a day filled with angst and guilt, and I had no desire to see the inside of a gym (almost a month of showering in the gym due to our dearth of hot water at home has left me a little gym-weary). So that left me with no choice but to run in the rain.

I threw on my running clothes and added a hat as a measure against the rain. Music cued, training watch set, and off I went. Following the logic that the faster I went, the sooner I’d have this over and done with, I set off at a hearty pace.

The run went surprisingly well. Not only did I find the rain to be refreshing and soothing, I actually managed to maintain the pace that I set at the beginning. Usually when I charge out of the starting blocks like a racehorse on steroids, I kind of peter out after three kilometres or so. Today, though, I finished my 5.65km in just a touch over 31 minutes, at a very respectable pace of around 5:42 minutes per kilometre.

I really should wake up more often feeling half-hearted about running. These runs always turn out to be the best ones.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/angee09/2264408983/. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.)

Treadmill Running: Better Than Nothing

14 Jul

Today, for the first time in many months, I came face to face with the treadmill at the gym.

Anyone who’s read my previous posts about treadmills will know exactly how I feel about them. For those who haven’t, I will merely say that I’m not a fan of the lab-rat machines, but regard them as a necessary evil. There are times when road running is just not possible, and running on the treadmill is better than not running at all.

Over the last few months, when I have had to run on the treadmill, I have used the one at home. It sat gathering dust for a few years after my younger son, then aged two,  put his hand onto the treadmill while it was moving, and took off the top few layers of skin. He is now old enough to respect the treadmill, and he knows to stay well away from it.

Treadmill running at home is marginally better than treadmill running at the gym. For a start, my home treadmill has a natural incline to it, so even on its “flat” setting I can simulate outdoor running reasonably well. And in addition, I can watch what I want on the TV without having to plug headphones into a weird little box that may or may not work. So the home treadmill has been a reasonable enough stand-in for “real” running on occasions when I’ve had no-one to watch the kids.

I was supposed to do a tempo run yesterday morning, which under normal circumstances wouldn’t have been a problem. The only thing is that when I do morning runs during the workweek, I have to get out early. I have to be awake by 5:00, outside waiting for my GPS watch to get a signal by 5:10, and running by 5:15. I have discovered that running on less than six hours of sleep makes me feel sick (unless I am racing: I can race on virtually no sleep at all, but racing has its own special set of rules), so I have to be asleep by 11:00 the night before an early morning run.

The night before last, we were having a whole lot of things happening at home. No hot water. Kids refusing to settle. A visit from my accountant. A dryer that wasn’t drying properly, resulting in me having to put each load through the cycle twice.

I did not get to bed until shortly after midnight, and by then my husband and I were so wound up that neither of us could sleep, so we talked until the wee hours of the morning. I did not get to sleep until well after 1:00 in the morning.

There was no way I could run when I woke up. I felt nauseous when my alarm clock went off, and that was before I’d gotten out of bed, never mind attempted to actually run anywhere.

But runners can be flexible, so I decided that it was no problem. I would just move yesterday’s run to this morning, and tomorrow’s run to Friday.

Last night – or should I say this morning – I got to sleep at about 2:30. Fannnnnnn-tastic.

When my alarm went off this morning, I got up, thinking that maybe I should just bite the bullet and run. But as I got up, I felt light-headed. I actually swooned, like they did in eighteenth century novels.

I was left with no choice. Either skip the run entirely (Scandal! How could I even think that!), or I could put in time on the treadmill at the gym at lunchtime. Like I said before, treadmill running is better than not running at all, so the gym it was. I stuck my headphones in my ears and turned on the music, set my training watch, and programmed the treadmill for a 45 minute hill workout.

It was good. I mean, as good as a treadmill run can be. My legs felt strong, my heart rate – inexplicably – stayed in the 150-155 range despite the fact that I was running quite intensely, and I actually kind of enjoyed it. I’m not suggesting that I am going to make treadmill running a regular part of my program, I’m just saying that it’s not always so bad.

So my scheduled run was finally done – albeit a day and a half late – and I have taken another baby step towards my goal of shattering last year’s time for the Autism Run.

And I feel a sense of accomplishment that has me grinning like a village idiot.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mahidoodi/199747855/)

If He Can Do It, So Can I

15 Jun

Last night, my son George was upset. He was distressed for the entire evening, crying and looking at us sadly with tears escaping from his beautiful big blue eyes. I could tell that this wasn’t just a case of a kid being in a bad mood. Something specific was bugging him. I just didn’t know what it was.

It was heartbreaking. There was this child, my beautiful boy, clearly wanting or needing something, and he was not able to communicate what it was. It was not for lack of trying. He was making supreme efforts to find the words and get them out, but no matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t understand.

In the end, George was just looking at me with an expression that told me he didn’t blame me for not getting it, that although he was sad, he was used to not being able to express himself, used to not being understood.

It was that look, the expression of resignation, that broke my heart. The idea that my child is already, at the age of 7, getting used to a life of hardship, just kills me. I guess this kind of acceptance has to happen sometime, because George’s life is never going to be the same as most other people’s, but still. It’s a difficult pill for a parent to swallow.

Moments like this strengthen my resolve where my running is concerned. On Sunday evening, I ran 14km on the treadmill. That’s a long way to run on a lab-rat machine, but really, I didn’t have any choice. Circumstances were such that it was the treadmill or nothing. And because I have a half-marathon a month from, now, I had to put in the distance.

Just because I deemed it necessary to run for 90 minutes on the treadmill, that doesn’t mean I liked it. It was very hard. The running part was OK. It was the mental resolve part that got me. Treadmill running is mind-numbingly dull, no matter what you do to try and distract yourself, and it took all of my self-discipline to keep going for the full distance.

Many of my long runs – even the ones I do on the open road – are tests more of my mental fortitude than my physical abilities. I know that I can run the distance. I have the base of physical fitness, and I have developed a running form that works for me. The mechanics of my body work just fine. The trouble is that my mind keeps trying to tell me that I’ve been running for a long time, and really, I should be getting tired by now. I have developed techniques to keep myself mentally strong during my runs. Playing music, thinking of things that are not running related, focusing on my body and how it feels as I run. The most effective technique I have, though, is this: all I have to do to keep going is think of the reason I’m doing it.

Every step I take, every aching muscle I endure, every toenail that I lose – it’s all for George. All of this training takes me closer to my Run For Autism, the event I use to raise funds for autism services to benefit my son and other people like him. Running for my child – what better motivation could there possibly be?

People sometimes ask me how I do it, how I go for all of those long runs and then, at the end of it, go out and race for thirteen miles.

For me, it’s easy. All I do is think of my boy. If he can live every day of his life with the challenges he faces, surely I can manage a two-hour run.

If he can do it, so can I. And he is my inspiration.

For details about my Run For Autism and how to support the cause, please visit my race page.

Moving On After A Disappointment

29 May

This morning I woke up with a heavy heart. I got up and half-heartedly made breakfast for my family. I put on a cheerful enough face as we all ate together, but Gerard could tell that I was not quite my usual self. As we were drinking our coffee, he asked me what was wrong.

“I was supposed to be running a race today,” I said.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Today is the day I was supposed to line up at the start line of the Toronto Women’s Half-Marathon, run a gruelling but satisfying race, and be doused with water by shirtless firefighters.

But because of life getting in the way of my training all season, I was not able to run today. Since the beginning of the year it’s been one thing after another. Weather so bad that I just couldn’t face outdoor training. Me being sick. James being in hospital. Me being sick again. Gerard being faced with ridiculous work deadlines and therefore being unavailable to watch the kids. Planning a wedding.

I have not, at any point, stopped running altogether, so I’m in reasonable enough shape. But still, considering how sporadic my running has been, attempting a half-marathon today would have been sheer lunacy. I would have risked illness or injury or both, and I would have stood a better-than-average chance of sidelining myself for the rest of the season.

But still. Knowing that I did the right thing in forfeiting this race does not make me feel any better about it. My Facebook page is full of statuses and pictures of people who did run the race, and I am – well, jealous. I feel as if I missed out by not being there.

At the same time, though, I cannot allow myself to dwell on this. Sure, I could mope around all day lamenting the fact that I missed a race I registered for months ago, and have been looking forward to for ages. I could tell myself that running at all today is out of the question because Gerard is at work and I have no-one to watch the kids.

Or I can put on my running clothes, pull out the treadmill, and as much as I hate treadmill running, get in the 10km that I want to do today.

I am going to choose the second one. I am going indulge in my guilty pleasure (a DVD of Friends episodes) while I clock up some miles on my lab-rat machine. The good thing about this: it’s a treadmill that has a slight built-in incline, so it replicates outdoor running fairly well. It’s a lot harder to run on than the treadmills at the gym.

Because I have a big goal this year: to break two hours in a half-marathon. And I want to do it in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon in October – my annual autism run. I want to break all kinds of records this year. I want to kick butt with my fundraising, and make lots of moolah to benefit people like my son – people who are loaded with potential that can be realized if the services are there. And I want smash last year’s time of 2:22:38.

It’ll be tough, but it’s never too late to start working towards it. I definitely won’t get there by sitting on my ass and feeling sorry for myself.

I do, however, stand a good chance of it if I start working towards my next race: a half-marathon in the Niagara region on July 18th. I’m not running this race with the intention of clocking up a specific time. I just want to gain the psychological advantage of having done a half-marathon this year: a practice run in preparation for the real thing.

So, this is my choice: I am going to write off today’s missed event as an unfortunate but necessary loss, and I am going to immediately start focusing on the race coming up.

I may have woken up feeling down this morning, but I am by no means out.

I am ready to pick myself up, dust myself off, and kick some serious ass.

There Will Be Hills

1 Apr

My running has been very much on again/off again throughout this winter, and it’s been causing me some degree of stress. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to run, and I have still laced up the running shoes when I’ve been able to. It’s that life has just gotten in the way lately. We have had an interesting run of illnesses in my family over the last several weeks – hopefully the cold that I have had over the last week will represent the last of the winter ailments.

Add to that the fact that it’s been winter, and the weather has been – well, crappy. Toronto had a very cold winter, resulting in thick sheets of solid ice on the sidewalks that I have wanted to avoid. There’s no point in going running when there’s a good chance of breaking a leg. So much of the running I have done has been on the treadmill. Not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. The thing is that I can only stomach the treadmill for so long. So I have done very few distance runs lately.

Brecause of this cold, I have not done any runs at all for about a week and a half. Usually I would, since the cold has been only in my head and hasn’t affected my breathing or anything below the neck. But I have erred on the side of caution because I have a race coming up tomorrow. I would rather rest and increase my chances of being well enough to participate.

And the strategy seems to have worked. Apart from a few residual sniffles, my cold is gone, and I will be able to run the race tomorrow. I’m not expecting it to be a stellar performance. It’s 8km, which I always find to be an awkward distance. It’s just too long for me to just go hell-for-leather from start to finish, but it’s too short to justify the pacing strategies that I use for longer distances. In addition, there will be hills. Lots of hills.

But still, this is a significant race. It marks the start of my 2011 racing season, and it will kick off my training for the Toronto Women’s half-marathon at the end of May. The Toronto Women’s half-marathon is a stepping stone to my main event of the year, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-marathon in October – my annual Run for Autism.

And that, as we all know, is the reason I run. It is my way of doing something for the autism community.

What better day to kick it all off than tomorrow: World Autism Awareness Day.

The karma of that brings a glow to my heart.

There will be hills. Every single one of them will be worth it.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bazylek/5096924747)

Weight a Minute

1 Mar

This morning I realized that after a long, bitter winter, I am done with the treadmill. I actually dragged my feet into the gym and sighed wearily as I punched the buttons on the machine to get the damned thing going.

They’re great machines, treadmills, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. I’m definitely an open road kind of girl. I like the freedom, and the sunshine (assuming there is any), and the feel of a light wind on my face. Road running makes me feel invigorated and carefree.

Treadmill running makes me feel like a lab rat doing an experiment. I can picture the men in white coats standing on the other side of a one-way mirror, observing my every move and deciding what mind-altering drugs to inject into my brain next.

I have a history of using the treadmill only in extreme circumstances. Last winter I didn’t use the treadmill at all because it was so mild, and there was very little snow. Even though it was dark, I could go running at five in the morning and not worry about ice.

I did have to worry about a chiropractic injury that had me crying like a baby for three months, but that’s another story.

This winter I’ve been making extensive use of the treadmill because the weather has been so messed up. We have spent some time in a deep, deep freeze, with temperatures going down to -30 degrees Celsius (or -22 degrees Fahrenheit). When it’s that cold out, I cannot even breathe, and despite layer upon layer of clothing, my entire body goes numb within about five minutes.

Along with the cold, there has been snow and ice. When the cold has abated, the snow and ice have remained. It has been treacherous out there, and so I have only been willing to run outside at times when I can actually see where I’m going. Without the ability to see where I’m planting my foot, I run the risk of landing on my ass while anyone who happens to be nearby points and laughs. Since I only have time to run before work when it’s still dark, this has meant a long sentence of treadmill running.

This morning, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I got onto the treadmill and decided on a hill training workout. Just fifteen minutes in, though, I’d had enough and I had to stop. It wasn’t that I was tired (I wasn’t). It wasn’t that my legs were sore (they weren’t). I was just out-and-out fed up with running on the treadmill.

Despite cutting my run short – something that did not sit well with my consciousness – I managed to make a decent workout out of the whole thing. I headed over to the weights section and pumped iron for a while.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It has been months since I did a decent weights workout, and this morning convinced me that I should reinstate it in my regular routine. I liked feeling the burn in my muscles, that sensation that allows you to visualize the cells in your muscles knitting together and getting stronger.

Regular weight training will make me a better runner.

It won’t hurt when I want to look pretty on my wedding day, either!