Posts Tagged ‘cross-training’

First Light Half Marathon in Mobile, AL

Date: January 10, 2016

Distance: 13.22

Location: Mobile, AL

Time: 2:24:09

I loved this race! The city of Mobile has a cool vibe, and the course began and ended downtown and extended into several AlabamaShirt&medalshistoric, residential districts along tree-lined streets. The weather was nice and cool with no wind and the course was flat–that allowed me to finish in a must faster time than I expected. As noted in the MS race report, I really hadn’t been training like I should have.

I guess the walking and Bikram yoga classes got me through. The infrequent, short training runs I completed in the weeks leading up to the race certainly had nothing to do with it!

The location was great, the course support was great, I liked the shirts, and I liked that this race did so much to support a local non-profit organization dedicated to supporting people with intellectual disabilities: In fact, the race medals are created by members of that community each year, as were the plaques they gave out to those of us who ran both the Mississippi Blues and First Light races.

As much as I didn’t like running these races alone–and I had quite an ordeal getting home using flight benefits (I ended up having to purchase a ticket), I’m really glad to be that much closer to the end goal. The Alabama race marked #43, and I have a clear plan ahead for knocking out the rest. The end is in sight!



Dear Bikram, I’m not having fun.

I used to love Bikram yoga. After completing 24 classes in 26 days in my quest to do a 30-day challenge, however, I’m not feeling the love. And, if I’m going to make it to the end, I still have to do six classes in the next four days. Blech.

I’m achy all over, my knee hurts, I have a pressure point sore on my foot, and I’m exhausted. I’m also tired of doing so much laundry and planning every freaking day around my yoga class. No zen-like peace in my world.

Bikram Yoga Pose Sequence

The 30-day challenge promises “a new body, and a new positive attitude.” I have neither.
Admittedly, attaining a new body requires heathy dietary choices (which I haven’t paid particularly close attention to) and the positive attitude is difficult for me to have when I’m hurting and simply “getting through” my classes.

Yoga classes used to be enjoyable when I only went twice a week. They provided me peace and power. With yoga, my running injuries healed, I gained strength, flexibility, and focus.

I still suggest Bikram yoga to everyone I meet. Yoga classes would help my mom with her arthritis, my sister with her migraines, and any of my friends and family who are looking for good cross-training options or therapy sessions that don’t require talking to someone from a couch.

I will not, however, recommend that anyone try to cram 30 ninety-minute hot yoga classes into 30 consecutive days. For me, it hasn’t been healthy. Granted, I am stronger and more flexible, but I’m certainly not better off physically overall. I can’t wait to get through this month and go back to my twice per week plan–balanced with running, walking, and hiking.

Knowing that I will never attempt a 30-day yoga challenge again, let’s end this on a positive note.

What I have liked about the thirty-day challenge:

1. Getting to take classes from so many different instructors has been great. Hearing someone explain a posture in a slightly different way has really added to my understanding of how to correctly do each pose. I still have a long way to go, but with each class and each attempt, I think I am moving in the right direction. And, as many teachers have reminded me, “This is a practice, not a perfect.” And, “As long as you are focusing on form before depth, you are receiving 100% of the benefits.”

2. I will like being able to say I completed a thirty-day challenge because, for me, it has been a HUGE challenge and I like being able to cross off various life experiences on my never-ending bucket list. Still haven’t gotten there, and not 100% I’ll make it to the end, but I’ll certainly do my best. I’ll then be able to add this accomplishment to the list of other things I’ve done.

3. I always look forward to seeing the staff and other students at the yoga studio. Salt Lake City Bikram Yoga truly rocks. They have amazing instructors, really nice owners, and a beautiful studio. It is truly a wonderful, welcoming place. I also like that an equal mix of men and women, from all ages and with all body types, show up to the same torture chamber as a supportive community with various reasons for why they are there.

4. I’m more accepting of my body. The 30-day challenge hasn’t necessarily provided this, but Bikram Yoga, overall, has. If you expect everyone in a Bikram yoga class to be young and perfectly toned, think again. All of us show up, no matter our age, weight, or limitations–barely dressed because of the heat–and work with the bodies we have. Bodies, in all of their various forms and abilities can be strong and beautiful.

What I have learned:

1. I’m reminded, once again, that it’s best to listen to my body. In reality, my yoga instructors would most likely tell me to discontinue the challenge and go back to a less frequent practice because, for me, that’s clearly the healthier option. My body is telling me that I’m overdoing it and I really should listen. I’m also very stubborn and committed, however, so I most likely won’t listen.

2. Cross-training is best. There are some people out there who stick to one form of exercise and seem to do fine. That doesn’t make sense to me. I feel most balanced and healthiest when I am doing a mix of various things. This challenge has made me really miss running. I also look forward to having more free time to walk my dogs.

3. Don’t set your expectations too firmly at the beginning of anything and let progress come in very small increments. I think I expected too much from this challenge. I envisioned being able to correctly do every pose in its full expression by the end. In only one month? Yeah. Crazy thought, I know. But I did hope.

4. You will always learn from any experience. You might not learn what you expect to learn, but trust me. You will learn.

In summary, wish me luck as I get through these last six classes. Consider giving Bikram Yoga a shot if you haven’t already, and–most importantly–listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs.


Update: Today (December 30th), I completed my 30-day yoga challenge! Glad to have that done. Yoga Challenge

Stick it out

Date: June 22, 2014

Distance: 10 miles

Time: 1:52:51

Yesterday, I completed a ten-mile training run and thought a lot about the importance of sticking it out. (Forgive the capital “R”. Not my creation. Like the sentiment, however.

This thought–about the need to be persistent during a particular workout–was most likely brought on by the fact that I chose to run five miles uphill before I turned around and rewarded myself with the much-easier five miles down. I hate hills. They really suck. But, I must admit–sometimes the first couple of miles of any run feels challenging, no matter the terrain or elevation. To get through those first tough miles, I repeated, “stick it out, stick it out, stick it out” dozens of times in order to keep myself focused.

Even after eight years of running, I still have days when I start out and nothing is coming together–I hurt, my muscles feel tight, I can’t get my breathing under control, and–in short–it’s not fun at all.

Thankfully, because I’ve been running for awhile, I know that this feeling is most likely temporary. I just need to stick it out until my muscles loosen, my breath falls into a calm, steady rhythm, and my mind opens up because I forget that I’m running. I just need to stick it out.

For me, things generally come together about 1.5 or 2 miles in. This common physiological reality is probably why people who say they hate to run honestly hate to run. They most likely haven’t ever gotten past those initial couple of miles and experienced “the good part.” After all, why would anyone run if it always hurt and was a struggle? It takes awhile, though, to work up to one or two miles when running and many people simply don’t have the patience or the will to stick it out.

Before I started running regularly, I remember how awful some of my first attempts felt. I used to be in awe of runners who ran “for fun” and genuinely seemed to enjoy running. Blech. I hated it and could never understand how they got to that point. I remember thinking that some people are just built for running and I’m not.

In reality, I just had never given myself a fair chance to build up to the point where I could start to enjoy running–where I could experience the benefits of running. That took me years. I wished I would have stuck it out back then, but I didn’t have the patience.

The idea of sticking it out not only applies to singular workouts–it also applies to an entire training plan or one’s general approach to healthier living and long-term goals. This weekend, I was provided with a reminder.

Being Reminded About the Need to Stick it Out

I’ve often written about my affinity for Bikram yoga. When I practice yoga, I am stronger, I have more clarity, I experience increased flexibility, I have improved balance, I sleep better, and I’m an all-around nicer person. So, why oh why did I quit going to classes about a month ago when I know how beneficial a regular practice is?

As sometimes happens, life got in the way. I had a particularly busy schedule last month and started cutting back on yoga classes–telling myself I didn’t have time. Thankfully, I (mostly) still kept up my running schedule.

After realizing that I had let an entire month slip by without attending a yoga class, I dragged myself to class on Saturday. And, what did I notice? I didn’t feel as strong. I was distracted. I had almost no flexibility. And the next morning? I was SORE!

Rather than beat myself up about my lack of discipline, though, I’ve used this experience as motivation to re-commit to a regular practice.  I’ve got to get back to my twice-a-week yoga routine.

It’s depressing, but it’s reality. It doesn’t take long to lose fitness levels when workouts stop. It’s much better to maintain those levels with a regular workout routine so the many benefits of regular exercise continue.

When life starts to get in the way, or when that training run starts out in agony, I just need to remind myself to stick it out. It’s worth it.




Staying motivated–why should you work out?

Date: December 8, 2013

I ran into a friend yesterday whom I hadn’t seen in several months. When I asked him how things were going he said, “Fine, but I really need to start working out again. I’ve been busy and I’ve lost my motivation.” I think those words get spoken a lot–especially at this time of year when the holidays are upon us, our routines get thrown for a loop, and–let’s face it–it’s damn cold outside and it’s hard to get excited about an outdoor workout. We know we should exercise, but it’s not always easy.Make time

Right now, I am looking outside my window at about six inches of freshly fallen snow and watching the thermometer creep up from 8 to 16-degrees. While drinking coffee and wasting time on the computer, I’m having an internal conversation with myself after seeing all the snow-filled sidewalks and streets in my neighborhood.

“I could go to the gym and run indoors.” “Yeah, but first you need to shovel the driveway.”  

“I could go to yoga class instead, and try to get a run in tomorrow.” “Yeah, but first you need to shovel the driveway.”

Then, I usually have this type of conversation with myself, “I have so many papers to grade, I really should work on those first. Or, I should get the grocery shopping done. It’s been awhile since I cooked a really good sit-down meal for my family, I should do that today. Oh, and this is such good baking weather; I should try that new cookie recipe I saw. I need to do laundry. I need to pay bills. I need to sort through those Christmas boxes and put up decorations. I really need to do some Christmas shopping. I should write a Christmas letter this year. I should…”

I think you get the point. When I allow myself to THINK about my planned workout, I often try to talk myself out of it–and sometimes I succeed. On occasion, I think that’s okay. Things do come up and should take priority–but not on a regular basis.

If other things start to have more prominence on your “to do” list than your workouts, that’s when you are putting other things above your own health. And what’s more important than your health? We often don’t realize how important our health is until poor health begins to affect other areas of our life–when we become too tired, too sore, or too sick to do the things in life that give us joy.

When my inner demons start to talk me out of my planned workout, I need to remind myself WHY I’m even doing this in the first place.

1. Stress release and depression avoidance. I’m a happier person and nicer to my family when I work out on a regular basis. I also notice how “down” I can feel when I go several days without exercise. It’s true. From personal experience, I’m certain that those studies showing how exercise prevents depression are true. Sixty minutes of exercise three days a week or thirty-five minutes five days a week is  just as effective as being on anti-depressant medication.

2. Health. I have a family history of all types of ailments that are prevented or lessened by exercise–heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and cancers. A list of seven health benefits of regular exercise is found at this Mayo Clinic website. Reviewing a list like this from time-to-time is sometimes helpful in reminding yourself why exercise is important.

Some recent studies have shown that regular exercise might also prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.  That, alone, should be reason to get out there and move.

3. Self Discipline & Confidence. I have self-diagnosed myself as having ADD. I’ve got all the classic symptoms–I start projects I don’t finish, I interrupt people while they are speaking, I change topics of conversations mid-sentence, I have a hard time sitting for any length of time, and I’m always multi-tasking to the point of feeling like I’m living in utter chaos most of my day. In short, I’m  creative, ambitious, and a great problem-solver, but I have a hard time focusing on only one thing at a time.

Running and yoga have shown me that I can follow through on something. I can hold myself accountable to see something through to the end, and–most importantly–my brain is at peace when I work out. When running or in the heat of a Bikram yoga class, I can’t multi-task. For the thirty minutes or two hours of my workout, I am focused on only one thing–putting one foot in front of the other, in the case of running, or holding a pose, in the case of yoga.

During my workouts I feel in control and focused. My brain is turned off and I am at peace. And, that “quiet brain feeling” often stays with me as the rest of my day unfolds. I also feel accomplished. If I’ve completed my planned workout for the day, there’s a small feeling of pride that I also carry with me. In short–I physically feel good, and I mentally feel good because I did what I said I would do. I am accountable to myself and I follow through on my promises to myself. For me, that’s huge.

Now, excuse me as I go shovel that driveway. I’ll remind myself that it’s for my health and I’ll try to convince my family members of the health benefits they should be enjoying as the rest of the snow falls and it will the their turn to shovel.

Tom King Classic Half Marathon (Nashville, TN)

Date: March 9, 2013

Distance: 13.1

Time: 2:11:45

Tennessee is done!race shirt

This was a long-awaited race with running buddies Denise, Caree, and Denise’s husband, Mike, and was supposed to have included a Lady Gaga concert as well, but those plans went awry.

Rewind to Fargo. This requires some back story.

About two years ago when Denise, Caree, and I met up to knock out North Dakota together, Denise wasn’t feeling well the night before the race so Caree and I left her at the hotel while we grabbed a pre-race dinner. When we returned to the hotel, Denise’s life had changed. Turns out, while we were gone, Denise had stumbled upon a televised Lady Gaga special while channel surfing, and was mesmerized. In those two hours we left her unattended, my head-banging, hard-rocking college roommate shocked me with her announcement that she was now a Gaga fan. I half laughed and half chalked it up to her state of malaise, figuring she would come to her senses soon enough.

Didn’t happen. Instead, Denise added Gaga to her list of beloved musicians and started buying her music. It didn’t stop there. She decided she would also like to see her in concert. So, after a bit of research, Denise found a way we could run a race  and attend a Gaga concert the same weekend, in a state we still needed to cross off our fifty-states list–Tennessee.

She was disappointed (and, admittedly so was I),when we learned about a month before the race/concert weekend that Lady Gaga had cancelled the rest of her tour dates due to a hip injury that required surgery. Denise and I have attended dozens of concerts together and it would have been fun to see Gaga. I imagine she puts on quite the show.

So, while the concert was no longer on the agenda, we focused on the race.


Eyes closed, darn it. With Caree and Nis in front of Titan’s stadium. Did you know the Titans are an NFL team?

The half marathon, the Tom King Classic, is a smaller, more local race that has been held for nineteen years. The course started and ended at the Tennessee Titans football stadium and made its way along the Cumberland River–mostly following paved running paths. Our hotel was conveniently located across the street from the stadium, which meant we did not have to stress about transportation to and from the race (that’s always a hassle). And, thanks to Mike, we girls didn’t even have to pick up our race packets–he volunteered to get up before six a.m. on race day and do it for us.

There were several times throughout the weekend we relied on Mike to take care of things. (Thanks, Mike!) Mike didn’t run the race, but wore his “I’m the stuff holder” shirt, cheered us on, and took pictures.

I just have to comment on the weather. After our most recent torrential downpour experience in Nebraska, we were thrilled to have absolutely perfect conditions–clear skies, no wind, and temperatures ranging from 40 to 60 during the race. We were especially lucky because the prior weekend it snowed and the day after the race brought high winds.

Combine the great race day weather with a flat, low-elevation course, and we were all guaranteed to have a great experience.

We were all happy with our times. Denise and I shaved over fifteen minutes off of our previous race time (October), and Caree finished strong–her first race following a pretty extensive surgery. She can definitely say she is back and ready to run. (She’s even agreed to join me in September for the Big Cottonwood Canyon Half). I’ve already run several races in Utah, but that’s a state Caree still needs to do. I’m already looking forward to it.

We’ve all been attending hot yoga classes for the past several months and unanimously agree that it’s helped our running. That could be a whole new post–but let’s just say we plan to keep up with our yoga practices.

Following the Saturday race, the rest of the weekend was spent enjoying the city. We explored downtown Nashville and soaked in the country music culture by eating BBQ, listening to live music, and we even bought cowboy

I love these race weekends! Next up? If I can get on a last-minute non-rev flight to Detroit in two weeks. I’ll knock out Michigan. Fingers crossed.


Inside notes for Caree, Denise, and Mike.

This is the race where…

TSA confiscated my scissors because they were 3/4 of an inch too long and I wasn’t able to tape my ankle because of Homeland Security.

I exposed my profound ignorance and asked if the Tennessee Titans were a college team or an NFL team.

Denise convinced Mike to dance with her to a song she was sure played at their wedding only to realize, mid-song, that it was a break up song and was not the song she was thinking of.

Denise openly admired the hotel front desk clerks–telling them they were “precious”, asking them if they were professional athletes, and also telling the hotel security guard that, because of his British accent, he was an “Osbourne”.

Caree’s Tennessee friend, Dana, visited us with a whirlwind explanation of how she needs her own television show and shared with us several other unmentionable observations of life.

We spent twenty bucks on a late night cab ride in search of Mexican food, only to happen upon a Krystal Burger instead. Score!

Bikram Choudhury is a narcissistic, lying jerk

…but I love his yoga classes.



I just finished reading “Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga,” by Benjamin Lorr. It’s one of those rare books that I could not put down and I continue to think about it long after I have read the final page.

The New York Times book review does a much better job of summarizing it than I could, but let’s just say I highly recommend it. In short, I would describe it as a book about extremism and the search for balance every human seeks.

I’ve been attending Bikram yoga classes twice a week for several months and I’ve become a huge fan. I’m noticeably stronger and more flexible as a result, and the classes have been a great compliment to my running. After a Bikram class I feel as though I just had a killer workout and I’m left feeling relaxed and a bit euphoric–much like having had a full-body, deep tissue massage. I love that each 90-minute, 105-degree class forces me to be “in the moment” and I even like the massive sweating involved.

Since I’ve been attending classes, I’ve heard many stories from people who swear their yoga practice has improved their health in some rather remarkable ways. The yoga has helped people with arthritis, thyroid problems, migraines, depression, addictions, and has eased or even cured all sorts of injuries–knee problems, lower back problems, and others.

I’ve noticed, even from just going twice a week, I’m not only enjoying new-found strength and flexibility, but I sleep better, I seem to handle stress better, and I simply feel better overall. I’m convinced there is something rather magical about it.

It’s  a big time commitment, though. Ninety-minute classes represent a big chunk of time for folks like me who work full time and have busy home lives. I doubt I could justify more than my twice-weekly classes along with the running I do three times per week. There are others, however, who practice daily or even more than that. There is also no shortage of people who are willing to pay $11,000 for grueling,  nine-week teacher training sessions where attendees power through twice daily classes, lectures, and where they must memorize the twenty-six-pose script, verbatim, in order to be certified as an official Bikram instructor. Lorr also became a certified instructor and describes the whole process with a great deal of raw insight and humor.

Throughout the course of the book, Lorr masterfully describes his quick addiction to Bikram yoga and how he quickly got caught up in the euphoria and impressive results from his daily practice, how he was influenced by several talented practitioners, and how he makes his way to not only instructor certification, but competition at the national level–meeting several other very influential people in the yoga world along the way. Lorr’s insightful and brilliant accounts of the people he meets and his experiences provide a riveting insight into the world of Bikram–the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Bikram the man has been subject of many types of  unflattering portrayals over the years and there seems to be a great deal of agreement in several areas: he is clearly caught up in a world of greed, instant gratification, and self promotion even at the cost of several important relationships. Lorr also exposes these dark sides of Bikram in some rather startling and disappointing ways but at the same time, manages to provide this brutally honest account of Bikram’s yoga world in such a way where it’s possible for the reader to separate Bikram the yoga from Bikram the man.

For that, I am grateful. I’m not ready to give up my twice a week addiction just yet and I’m pretty certain I do not like Bikram the man.


April 2013 update: This article, also written by Benjamin Lohr, discusses sexual misconduct charges against Bikram Chaudhry. No surprise there.

no impending race=no motivation to run

The holidays, the shorter daylight hours, and the colder weather have all given me lots of excuses to slack off. Yes, they are weak excuses, but they are excuses I have readily been using nonetheless.

from google images

My next scheduled race isn’t until March 9th–a full fifteen weeks away. That means I’ve gotten sucked into complacency. I’ve simply lost my motivation to put in all of my training runs because, with so much time until my next race, it’s been far too easy for me to tell myself, “It’s too cold, it’s too dark, I’m too tired, blah, blah, blah.”

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t completely given up my workouts. I’m still walking or running at least three days a week and I’m getting to yoga twice a week. It’s just that I’m doing far more walking than running, and I’m putting in less distance than I normally would if I had a race scheduled sooner than I do.

I’m feeling lethargic as a result. Thursday’s 4.45 mile run was challenging when it should have been easy. And, with the Thanksgiving weekend indulgences, I’m feeling the weight creep back on as well.

I always tell people that one reason I sign up for so many races is so I have motivation to work out and these last few weeks have proven that.

Where is my motivation? I just have to find it again.