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Archive for the ‘No Excuses’ Category

Before I talk about aqua jogging, I need to tell a seemingly unrelated story. Back in October 2011 I had just completed my first triathlon, the SheROX San Diego sprint tri. I loved it and immediately signed up for an Olympic distance race the following December. I dove right into training, and stuck to my new training schedule even when we went camping with some friends. What better setting for a long bike ride than Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree National Park

Gorgeous view of Joshua Tree National Park to distract me on my long bike ride. Photo by Vicente Villamon.

As I was driving back to camp after the ride, I passed lots of roads that were named after desert features — Outpost Road, Sunnyhill Road, Juniper Road. That’s when I began to get nervous about the Olympic distance tri. My mind started racing. I thought about how my friends would be able to see the SheROX race numbers on my calf and arms because the permanent marker still hadn’t worn off. Then I thought about how I had looked at the professional pictures of me at the race and I wondered how the photographers had seen my number on my triceps from the swim — I guess they saw it when I peeled off half my wetsuit as I exited the water. Then I remembered how I looked blue when I exited the water from the swim, and then I worried about swimming a whole mile in the Olympic distance race in December. I thought maybe I shouldn’t have signed up to do it! That’s when I passed another road sign. It read: “Olympic Dr.” I’m not kidding. All these desert names, and at that exact moment I pass Olympic Drive?! It’s not so much that I believe in signs sent from God, but I do believe we’re open to seeing certain things at certain times, and I needed to see that certain sign at that certain time.

Anyway, all that to tell you that I saw more signs on my recent aqua jog. I had been getting awfully discouraged with the plantar fasciitis. A week of rest didn’t help. I tentatively tried out a slow run at the track, and I felt no better, no worse, until two days later when my feet became even more sore. I started wondering if I’d have to give up on running the marathon nine weeks from now. That’s when I remembered my half marathon coach Stephanie’s story about how she recovered from a tear in her plantar fascia (ouch with a capital OUCH!) by jogging in the pool. My marathon training plan called for a 15-mile run. Could I do it in the pool? I watched a few videos on YouTube to study the proper form for aqua running. My favorite tutorial was this one:

After my studies, I eagerly told my husband my plan and headed out to the outdoor pool, the one that plays music that could entertain me for a 2-hour aqua jog. At the pool, a fitness class was just starting and many of the women were using flotation belts, the kind I needed for the aqua jog. The bin was empty, but I spotted one last belt hanging next to the pool. I asked around to make sure no one was using it, and sure enough, I had snagged the absolute last flotation belt. Sign #1?

I hopped right in the pool and got going. I couldn’t tell if I was replicating the proper form from the video, and I started to question the sanity of pumping my little legs away, running to nowhere in the pool. That’s when Foster the People sent me my second sign in the form of “Pumped Up Kicks,” one of my favorite tunes from my running playlist (compliments of Coach Stephanie). That song also happens to be a favorite of my spinning class teacher, and I knew I could run to the beat of the song, just as I set the bike cadence to the beat in spin class.

In the second hour of my two-hour “run,” the Bart Crow Band sent me another sign in the form of “Run with the Devil.” Yes, “I may run with the devil….” If only the band had said I run like the devil.

Finally, as I floundered during the last 20 minutes of my “run,” it was like Journey was serenading me, imploring me not to give up on the marathon dream. “Don’t stop believin’ [Angela, you can do it, you can train for a marathon in the swimming pool and on the bike].” Catchy little tune, don’t you think?

Do you believe in signs?

Have you ever trained for a running race by training on a bike or in the pool? How did that pan out for you? Do you aqua jog for injury prevention and/or for recovery from an injury?

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Y’all, I am struggling physically and mentally with the plantar fasciitis in my feet. It’s not painful, it’s not a sharp stab in my heel, it’s a dull ache in the arch of the foot. One day it’s the right foot yelling at me, the next day it’s the left. Frankly I want to yell at them both.

Back in May, right after I officially signed up for the Santa Barbara International Marathon this coming November, I had a flash of fear. Could I really do it? I’d struggled to run 13.1 miles and meet my goal of a sub-2 half, did I actually want to put myself to the test of 26.2? The more I thought about it the more I realized:

I am less afraid of running 26.2 miles than I am of being injured and not able to run at all.

Now here I am, staring down an injury. I’m halfway through my marathon training plan, with under 10 weeks to go until race day. Maybe the plantar fasciitis will go away in a matter of weeks and never come back. Maybe it will drag on for months. Maybe (heaven forbid) the plantar fascia will rupture. I’ve given myself a few days to worry and research and develop a plan of action for the next couple of weeks. Now it’s time to give myself a pep talk and move forward. What do you think of the following random thoughts in my own mental pep talk? Do you have any words of inspiration to share?

Sometimes the workouts we least want to do end up being the most important ones.

Even the best physical training plan is deficient if you do not pair it with your own mental training plan. How do you juggle training with the rest of life? What do you do to manage injury? How do you deal with pre-race nerves? What will your mantra be on race day? What is going to get you through those last miles?

Train without music in order to listen to your body and mind.

Overcome that “I don’t feel like it today” and you will be rewarded with a huge mental boost that is exponentially greater than the physical workout.

Figure out how to weather an injury without going crazy. Be resilient. Take the downtime to appreciate the gift of fitness. Come back stronger.

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These 10 tips for eliminating excuses not to exercise go beyond the traditional advice to lay your workout clothes out the night before, set your alarm across the room, exercise first thing in the morning, or carry your bike pump on the bike. These tricks have saved me more than once and kept me on track (so to speak) with my marathon and triathlon training.

1. Memorize a basic strength training routine that does not require any equipment. I cannot count the number of times my workout plan has been derailed by the weather, lack of transportation, or a sick child who needs to stay home in bed. After doing the series of strength training exercises laid out in Train Like a Mother just a couple of times, I found that I could do the exercises on my own, anywhere, anytime. You can watch a video demonstration online of How to Get Ripped Like a Mother. Sometimes when I am supervising my children on the playground at a park, I will do triceps dips on the park bench, pushups on the grass, and crunches on the rubber safety turf on the playground! Before I know it I’ve gotten in a 20-30 minute comprehensive strength training workout with no equipment required.

2. Keep headphones in your pocket or purse. If you can’t bear to run without your tunes but suddenly your iPod is dead, what can you do? Use those headphones to plug in at the gym, or download a free library book on tape to a media card in your smartphone. If those aren’t options, swim in the pool (I have found an outdoor pool that plays music!) or choose a local trail and enjoy some people-watching while you log some “unplugged” miles!

3. Pack your workout bag with alternatives. The other day I drove 20 minutes to the bike trail only to find that I couldn’t inflate my front bike tire with my bike pump (note to self: repair tire valve stem; check tire inflation at home). Because I’d worn my running shoes and not my slip-on shoes that I normally wear before changing into my cycling shoes, I was able to salvage the workout with a 4-mile run on the trail. Stay flexible with your plan by packing your swimsuit in your running bag, and bringing your running shoes when you plan to bike.

4. Keep extra sunscreen and toiletries in your gear bag. Perhaps you’ve driven to the gym on your day off only to find it unexpectedly closed for the holiday. If you’ve packed sunscreen with you, you can take your workout outside instead. Just don’t store that sunscreen in your car — the heat degrades the sunscreen, reducing its effectiveness.

5. Research your workout alternatives. You can rescue a workout by knowing in advance what your alternatives are. If you’ve arrived at the gym only to find the pool closed due to a baby’s “accident,” instead of swearing “SH!T” and going home, hit that local city pool that charges a small one-time usage fee. Keep a list of bike and running trails and local parks.

6. Store hairbands on your key chain. This tip applies to long-haired ladies (and men like my husband!), and fathers with girls who are active in sports. I use a carabiner to clip hairbands to my keys, but you can hook the bands right on the keychain too.

7. Invest in some face wipes. After a recent workout I was so sweaty that I could literally wring sweat drops out of my clothes. I can hardly wait to change clothes and clean myself up after a tough workout. If I have errands to run or someplace to be before I can get in a shower, I use face wipes to do a temporary cleanup job. I like Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes with White Tea.

8. Plan for injury. If you’re sidelined by injury from your normal routine, learn to shake it up with cross-training and strength training. With your doctor’s okay, try low-impact aqua-running in the pool, or train on the bike for an upcoming running race (yes it’s possible — check out Train Like a Mother, mentioned above).

9. Keep extra water and snacks in your car or gym bag. Not only is it good emergency planning, keeping extra bottles of water and a snack like graham crackers, nuts or granola bars can fuel an impromptu workout.

10. Cut yourself a break. When all else fails, embrace a rest and recovery day. Use the time to readjust your workout plan for the week to make up for the day. Most importantly, adjust your mental attitude. DO NOT let today’s rest make you feel like you’ve fallen off the wagon, so you might as well not exercise the next day either. That is no excuse! It’s even more important that you exercise the next day. Use your rested body to power out a faster, harder workout than ever!

What tips do you have for motivating yourself to get the day’s workout in no matter what life throws your way? Have you ever rescued a workout by having a backup plan? Once, when I had just 30 minutes before I needed to pick up my toddler at preschool, I ran around the lake path at a nearby park. Nothing unusual about that, except I was wearing jeans at the time! Can’t stop me! 😉

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Last we spoke I was planning to head to Zuma Beach in Malibu in the morning to preview the swim course for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. That remained the plan this morning, right up to the moment my seven-year-old said, “I don’t feel so good.” Sure enough, the thermometer revealed a temperature of 100.7 degrees Fahrenheit. No beach day for us. I could have gone by myself, but I was following what I consider the first rule of open water swimming: Don’t swim in open water alone. If it were a protected, waveless cove with a lifeguard or a calm, shallow lake where my feet could touch the ground at all times, I might be willing to break that rule. Not in the open Pacific Ocean, without buoys, and with unknown lifeguard coverage. The whole point of going out there was to test the waters with waves and wind, and I wasn’t willing to risk swimming in those conditions alone, in spite of the fact that I am a strong swimmer who has never had a problem. That preview can wait a few more weeks, although the triathlon website helpfully reminds me that there are only 33 days until the event!

So, a monkey wrench got thrown into my workout plans. That brings me to what I consider an athlete’s most important quality. It’s not talent, speed, strength, or agility — it’s dedication. How dedicated was I to getting in a workout today? Could I bounce back and switch mental gears for a new plan? I had a choice to make. I could (1) scratch today’s workout altogether, (2) swim at the Y (an option until a friend helpfully texted the warning that the pool was closed “til further notice”), (3) pay a few dollars to swim at another outdoor pool facility, or (4) brave the heat wave and go for my regular Sunday long bike ride. It seems Southern California has a fever too:

Car external thermometer readout

My car’s external thermometer readout at the bike trailhead parking lot.

I hit the bike trail for an easy 10.3 miles with a few speed intervals thrown in. The 100-degree heat posed no problem as long as I stopped at the drinking fountains for a water bottle refill. The only issue was that the first water station was surrounded by about 30 homeless people. I was less worried about my safety or my water needs and more worried about the people who had to bear the dry, relentless heat we have been experiencing here. Thank goodness on the return route I saw that the reason so many people were gathered in that area was that the food truck arrived to serve an afternoon meal. I looked to see if I could spot a name on the truck so I could donate to that organization. Sadly I couldn’t see it and I wasn’t willing to stop because I already had a homeless guy joking with me that he wanted to hitch a ride on my aero bars! I smiled and rode on.

I love the Santa Ana River Trail and I have never felt unsafe there. Many homeless people live under the bridge underpasses but I have never had an issue with them. I won’t run west toward the beach by myself in the early morning, but I’d ride my bike no problem, and I’d run later in the day without worrying. The route east toward the wealthier suburbs are fine at any time. The trail is well enough used that it’s not a cause for concern. I’m cautious and smart and I listen to my female, internal warning system. (Don’t worry Mom and Dad! I know you’re reading this!) Bad things can happen anywhere no matter how smart and cautious you are, and I think of Sherri Arnold often, but more often than not I think of my getting out there as a small honor to her.

At any rate, today’s bike ride proved fun and uneventful. I approached Angel Stadium and the Honda Center in Anaheim:

Santa Ana River Trail view of Anaheim Stadium and Honda Center

Santa Ana River Trail view of Anaheim Stadium and the Honda Center

and eventually stood right under this:

The A at Angel Stadium

The A at Angel Stadium as viewed from the Santa Ana River Trail

Heavenly.

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