Saturday, January 29, 2011

Simple Steps to Add Motivation

It’s the end of January and a time when, for many of us, the enthusiasm generated by our New Year’s resolutions is wearing off - or maybe it’s already gone! So how to keep motivated and continue focusing on fitness and healthy habits when it’s cold, snowy and dark outside?

This has been an ongoing challenge for me, not just in the misery of January but even in the pleasure of beautiful October weather (I live in Arlington, Virginia - summer is not a time when I consider the weather to be beautiful!). To counteract this and achieve my sister’s projection that 2011 is going to be “the year of Michele”, I’ve been spending some time lately reading different resources, participating in webinars, talking to friends, and developing some new systems that seem to be working for me. I’m not yet back to my best level of motivation or consistency but these ideas and practices are helping me to make some positive steps. And each positive step is one step closer to the me that I intend to be.

Technique #1: Daily Motivational Quotes - I’m sure there is some new, fancy, high-tech way to do this but I’m using a pretty old-fashioned method. When I read something that touches me and that I think will help me to remain positive or motivated or focused, I write the quote down on a 3 by 5 notecard. I keep these notecards in a desk drawer and each day, I pull out my pile of cards and read the top quote. I usually post that quote to Twitter or as a status update on Facebook. I like sharing them with others and seeing their comments. I also like having that extra level of interaction with the quote. It helps me spend a little more time with the quote and think about it a little more.

Technique #2: Schedule Workouts on Calendar - I have seen this suggestion so many times but have always ignored it. ‘I work part-time and have a flexible schedule, I should just be able to fit in my workouts when I want to.’ Doesn’t that seem like a reasonable statement? Sadly, that never seems to work as well in practice as it does in theory. So instead, every Saturday or Sunday evening, I look at my calendar for the upcoming week and schedule my key workouts on my calendar. It’s actually working really well so far. Other than the week I was sick, I have done every scheduled workout. Maybe not quite when it is scheduled but either earlier or late the same day.

Technique #3: Nightly Thankful - This may seem a little less specific or even a little flaky but it helps with having a positive attitude. Every night when I first lay down in bed, I list at least one thing from the day that I am thankful for. Sometimes it is a great workout. Sometimes its hanging out with a friend. Sometimes it’s enjoying a blue sky while I walk the dog. Sometimes its a positive conversation as part of my job search. Whatever it is, it forces me to focus on a positive at the end of the day rather than focusing on any negatives, stresses, or things that I need to do. If it’s been a bad day, this can be hard to do but I have decided that it is important to always find a positive and I am going to stick with that goal. Another technique that I have read of but haven’t adopted yet is related - it is to start each day with a gratitude list. The technique is that before you even get out of bed in the morning you list several things for which you are grateful. I like the idea: why not start and finish the day with a reminder of your blessings.

Technique #4: One Thing At A Time - In the past, I’ve put together ‘ideal’ training plans. And then I’ve promptly failed to follow them. So I’m not doing that this time. I have put together a year overview which takes into account my goal events. And I have mapped out key workouts in each sport to prepare me for those events. But I’m building up to that ‘ideal’ training plan. Just like always, my training plan incorporates 4 week training block and each block has a focus. My first block for this year (which actually started in late December) was a swim focus block. My focus during that block was fitting in two swim workouts per week. Anything else was a bonus. And I managed to meet that goal. Which then gave me a sense of achievement that built into the second block, which I’m in now. This is a bike focus block. So now, in addition to those 2 swims per week, I’m fitting in a long bike ride as my key bike workout each week. Again, that is all I’m requiring of myself. The next block will be a run focused block. Again, I’ll make sure I do my key run workout each week. By that point, by focusing on one thing at a time, I’ll have established a strong habit of swimming, biking and running each week. And I’ll have the sense of accomplishment necessary to successfully move on to the next ‘one thing!’

These are the techniques that I’m currently using and I’m pleased with the results so far. Next time, I want to write about the techniques that I’ve heard of or read about and am thinking about incorporating. I might even include some that I don’t think will work for me if I learn of any of those.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Just Noticed the Lack of Noticing

I woke up this morning earlier than normal, although I’m very likely to go back to sleep still before waking up for the day. This probably wouldn’t have happened except that I have a bit of an upset stomach and I thought that I’d be able to see the end of the eclipse. Unfortunately, my tummy still hurts and I can’t find the moon. Admittedly, not being able to find the moon is a key element of an eclipse but still.... Definitely going back to bed as soon as the kitty decides to come back in from playing outside.

On the good side, noticing the discomfort lead me to notice something else. And what I’ve noticed is what I’m not noticing. And what I’m not noticing is pain in my lower back. With some on and off, I’ve had pain in my lower back since I hurt it in late 2008. However, lately I haven’t noticed any lower back pain. Not even today after an eight-hour shift at REI. I’ve been working on core strength and glute strength as well as having regular chiropractic ART treatments and, most recently, adding monthly massage. I’ve been doing yoga and pilates for additional strength and flexibility. But I think the key factor in making this go away is my almost nightly usage of Compex Active Recovery on my back. Think of it as having a strong massage every day. And, through the use of the electrodes, being able to target that massage exactly on the point that hurts. Very exactly.

Can’t wait to see how the lack of pain benefits my training in the new season. Very excited!!

Now off to either find the moon or at least the cat.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Compex is Going to Help Me Survive the Holidays!

I just finished the 2nd day of a 5 day straight stretch at work and my legs feel as beat up as if I just finished a tough race! I know that 5 days straight doesn’t seems like much to those of you who have regular jobs but I work part-time in retail and usually don’t work more than 3 days in a week and hardly ever more than 2 days in a row. However, with the holiday shopping season, I’ve been picking up more hours and this week I was scheduled Thursday through Monday - 8-hours on my feet each day for 5 straight days. I’ve also gone back to biking to work most days. It’s not far in terms of distance but it’s at least a little something additional each day.

I didn’t think much of this until I was walking the dog this morning after just one day of work. I noticed that my legs were a little sore and a little tired. However, midway through my shift at work today, I noticed that my legs hurt from my ankles through my quads. It didn’t get any better as the day went on! Now I’m finally home and hooked up to Compex Active Recovery on my quads and planning to use it on my shins and calves as well if I can stay awake long enough. I’m sure that tomorrow I’ll feel much better and I’ll survive the next two weeks until the end of the holiday shopping season thanks to Compex. And I really hope that one of the gifts Santa brings me this year is that new job I’m looking for so that by this time next year, I won’t be working in retail anymore!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Santa Shuffle 5K

I ran my first stand-alone 5K in ages today and, wow - did it hurt! The Santa Shuffle 5K was a first time 5K organized by a local running store to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I was looking for a 5K time to help me set my training paces - I figured that I should start training based on my current overweight, out-of-shape body. Then as I get back in shape and to my racing weight, I can update my training paces and have a sense of accomplishment as I track my improvement.

My hope for today was to be under 24 minutes for the 5K. I know it’s not a fast time, but I didn’t think I could achieve a fast time with the condition I’m in right now. Unfortunately, race conditions weren’t even favorable for that. First, the weather this morning was in the low 30s, with a windchill down to the 20s. I can plan and bundle up for cold weather but I have asthma and sometimes when it gets that cold, my lungs just don’t want to cooperate. Next, of course after feeling great for days, my knee started to hurt today. I tried to loosen up my quad by warming up before the run and stretching but it just didn’t seem like enough - probably because it was so cold. This is where I messed up - I should have packed my Compex this morning and used the warm-up program but I didn’t think of it (possibly because it’s been a while since I’ve had to leave the house at 6:30 for a race and I’m out of practice!). Finally, the course had a pretty significant hill. The course started off with a small downhill, then a flat, then another downhill for almost the rest of the first mile. It was an out and back course which meant that most of the last mile was going to be uphill. Great fun when I knew I’d be tired and hurting by that point.

I met some interesting people before the race. One guy was trying to hit around 7 minute miles after hurting his leg at a half-marathon in September. A young girl running with her father was hoping to run at under a 9 minute pace for the first time ever. (I saw both after the race: She just hit her goal, he just missed.) A lot of people were in holiday themed costumes - I saw plenty of elves and reindeer along with milk and cookies, a wrapped present, and a whole pack of M&Ms. Made me sad that I didn’t wear my elf hat but I did have my Compex hat on.

I didn’t hit my goal - missed it by about a minute - so I definitely have a lot of work to do over the winter. But at least I have a pace to use in setting my training zones. I usually hang around after races to cheer for other finishers and socialize but it was so cold (and I had to get to work) so I changed into my dry clothes then went to Starbucks for a tea. Results weren’t posted yet so I didn’t bother sticking around to see results because I was sure that I was too slow for any of the awards. However, I just found them online and I was 2nd in my age group - and less than 15 seconds back from 1st. I guess everyone was a little slower than normal in the cold. I’m a little sad because the store usually gives out pretty good age group awards at their races but maybe this means that there is more for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Found A Great Challenge For Compex

I had a very quiet Thanksgiving and was able to spend a lot of time watching the endurance event marathon on Universal Sports. While I didn’t watch any event all the way through, I saw parts of the 2005 through 2009 Ironman World Championships and the 2010 Boston, London, and New York Marathons. Really inspiring!!

As a result, I spent some time looking at my calendar and my planned races and online race schedules and found and registered for an event that I think is going to be a great challenge for the recovery powers of Compex. It’s the Ultra Challenge at the Gasparilla Distance Classic at the end of February. The Ultra Challenge involves running a 15K Saturday at 7:05 am, a 5K Saturday at 9:30 am, a half-marathon Sunday at 6:00 am, and then an 8K Sunday at 9:00 am. I know that to make this happen, not only am I going to have to do some really strong training between now and then, I’m also going to really call upon the recovery powers of Compex between each event.

I’ve also been lucky - my running is still getting better. My knee hasn’t hurt while running all week so I tried my first hard effort in a while today. I went to the track so that it would be easy on my knee and did a 6 minute pacing effort. Definitely not the pace that I usually run at that level of effort but it gives me a baseline and I can only improve from here!

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, that your Turkey Trots went well, your food was yummy, and your family time fun!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Today's Training Achievements

I began reading Touch the Top of the World by Eric Weihenmayer. I am only a few chapters in but I think it’s going to be a great motivational read. First of all, just the prologue was amazing. Second, his talk at the USAT coaching seminar in February was the best keynote I’ve ever heard and learning more about his attitude - and hopefully incorporating the positive characteristics in my own life should be a great help as I take on new challenges for the new season.

My own personal training achievements today included attending yoga this morning and replacing the battery in my Garmin heart rate monitor strap. The first is good both for what it does for me but also because it demonstrated my ability to return quickly to training after a short break and not get sucked into a downward spiral of non-training. The second is good because I’m trying to use the facts and figures that I can get from my training devices both to support my training and to keep me motivated. Now just hoping that I put the battery in correctly and that tomorrow morning I’ll be able to measure my resting heart rate again.

Tomorrow morning may be my first (isn’t that sad) mountain bike ride of the season. Probably joining some coworkers in the morning. Let’s see if the cats cooperate!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Unplanned Recovery Day

After yesterday’s great positives, a little bit of a setback today. Too busy with work to get out for the run that I had scheduled. But that doesn’t mean that I’m giving up. I know that tomorrow is another chance to get out and fit in some great training! Plus, today wasn’t a full loss - I spent plenty of time using my Compex, running various endurance programs. My back, my glutes, my hamstrings, etc. It’s nice to know that I can continue to support my training even when I have that bit of a setback.

Additionally, this may not have been as much of a negative as it could otherwise appear. The Garmin is a stern task master and yesterday I wasn’t able to hit the pace goals that I had set for myself. I felt great and was having a really good time running but at the one mile point, I was running too slowly. I checked again a bit later after trying to speed up and was still too slow. At that point, I decided to change my workout and instead of hitting my goal pace, transition to a slower, endurance focused workout. As a result, I did my longest run since the Half Full Triathlon and arrived back home still feeling good and without any knee pain. But this morning I woke up tired and I’ve continued to feel tired all day. So taking a day off to recover a little bit and get ready for another good workout tomorrow is probably worthwhile.

I did manage to pick up batteries for the Garmin’s Heart Rate Monitor while I was out today. I need to get those installed tonight so that I can record my resting heart rate in the morning and start tomorrow strong!