Sunday, February 22, 2015

Training resumed!

So I'm back training again. I got over my cold and so as I mentioned have started swimming and riding the spin bike in the gym, as well as core work. The plan is to ride 2 times/week, with one ride being a shorter harder ride, and the other being a longer slower ride, with both being followed by parts of this core routine. At this point there's not much difference between the short and long rides, since I'm just starting to build up time on the longer rider. But I'm incorporating single leg riding into the shorter harder ride. I've been riding at a good high cadence for 5 mins to start, then 1 min each leg, 1 slower recovery minute with both legs, then 4 mins harder and faster on both legs, then back to the each leg for 1 min, 1 min slow, 4 mins hard, etc. I'm up to 36 mins on that, and about the same on the longer ride, although that will continue to increase in time whereas the harder ride will not for a few weeks.

I'm taking a different tack with my swimming this year. I was going to just start by swimming more frequently, which I've read is a good way to get more efficient even without drills, although there's a limit to how much better you can get this way of course. But I read this blog post and it made me realize something. I am really good at pushing myself in running and on the bike, but I have never really pushed myself at swimming. I never feel like I get a cardio workout of any kind swimming, although my arms are often tired at the end of a long session. So I decided to try and go just a little faster. Not race faster, but just feeling like I'm working, as I often do in running. Basically for me that means faster turnover in the arms, and my pace improved immediately, although my form got worse. So I slowed it down a little so that I could concentrate both on form and on turnover and surprisingly, my pace stayed fast (for me). I can't keep it up for an hour, but I can for 1 km or so, and it feels like I might actually make improvements in my swimming pace just by trying harder. Seems kind of ridiculous to say it, but I've never tried to go faster overall when I swim. I've done 25 m drills (I rarely get to swim in a 50 m pool and I find it hard to do fast 50 m when I have to turn), and I swim faster when I race, but I've never really done a sustained hard swim. I have no idea if any coach would tell me it's a good idea or not, but it has turned swimming into more of a workout for me, which I like, meaning I'm less likely to avoid it.

Until this past week. I said in my previous post that I knew my 'back-at-it' high wouldn't last, and it didn't. It ended with the start of this past week. My schedule was out of wack due to it being reading week. I live far enough away from campus that I don't go in if I don't have to, and with reading week, I didn't have to much. But that's where I swim and go to the gym, so if I'm not going in, my workout schedule gets screwed up. Because I can't run still and wasn't riding my bike, and my motivation was low, it turned into a bit of a rest week. It didn't help that I've been really grinding it out at work. Things are getting finished that need to get finished, which is good, but it takes a toll. I'm good at getting into a grove where other things just fall by the wayside, myself included. And I work best in the evenings/at night, so I like to stay up late writing. But that's not good for me, mostly because with a son to get off to school, I can't just sleep in later to make up for it. So my workout mojo was gone.

But then I got back out on my bike for a long slow ride this week which was great! I tried out the my new carbon wheelset (Christmas present from my husband) which made me look like a real poser, as I was super slow. But heck, I would have been even slower without them! Anyway, it felt great to be back out on a real bike, wind through my hair. We went to Stanley Park in the early afternoon and did two spins around. There were relatively few cars which was great. I hadn't ridden in so long that I was very slow and cautious getting through the city to the park, but at least I wasn't jumpy. That ride really helped my mood, and I ended up having a great session at the gym on Friday. I did a short hard ride and my core work. And exactly 2 months after my toe injury I've had an almost pain free day, and I'm going to start running again tomorrow. By start, I mean start. As in, 10 mins the first run. If all goes well, I'll add 2 mins a run. At this point, it's not really going to be part of my training in any big way, so my plans to bike and swim each 2x/ week won't change. I'm hoping that I might be able to do the spring half marathon I'd been planning on, but if not, oh well. These things happen and I need to adjust my expectations accordingly.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Woo Hoo! I lost 5 lbs, and I'll likely gain them back again!

I got into triathlon for several reasons, mostly to get healthy and be around for my child, but I also really wanted to lose some weight. It wasn’t my primary motivation, but I’d be lying if I said I that it wasn’t at least part of my motivation. I got down under my pre-baby weight quite quickly after my son was born, mostly by breastfeeding and living in a walkable city. But once the little guy stopped wanting to be in the Ergo or stroller (as in, he wanted to walk to the store himself), I started walking less. It’s one thing to take 30 minutes to walk to the store, it’s quite another to take 1.5 hours that I don’t have to spare. So the weight started to pack on. I gained about 12 lbs in 1.5-2 years.  Not good.

Training for my first triathlon thankfully put a stop to the gain, but I didn’t lose any weight. I was frustrated for a while, but got over it. I felt so much better, my clothes fit better, and I clearly had clearly been losing some fat, since I was gaining muscle but hadn’t gained any weight. I had gone from barely being able to use the second to last hole in my belt to the last one (from almost the smallest to the smallest, it was a size large belt, up from the mediums in my closet  I could no longer  wear). At least I was seeing some visible improvement in my body. I was never going to be perfect (but I never had been so that’s nothing new), but it’s hard to work hard and see no results. I eventually only allowed myself to jump on the scale at the gym at the beginning of every month. I wasn’t worried about becoming a slave to it, I was worried about getting so frustrated by the lack of movement that I gave up on training. That said, I did want to track any changes. 

By the time I’d been training for 1 year I’d seen some movement in my weight. I had managed to lose, wait for it, 2 lbs! Not much, but it was real. I managed to keep it off for another 6 months. (Of course, there were/are fluctuations in my weight, but it was fluctuating around a different number than before.) Then I had a decent fall workout-wise. Not great, because of life circumstances, but you have to roll with whatever life throws you, and sometimes other things really are more important. I was still running a bit every week when I hurt my toe just before Christmas, then got a really bad cold/cough, which together meant I couldn’t do anything for over a month. My plan had been to do a lot of running over the fall and winter to try and lose a bit more weight. But again, life throws things at you sometimes. My cough finally left a few weeks ago, meaning I could start swimming again, and I am now back in the gym and riding the stationary bike. I can’t put on my bike shoes because of my toe, so no road riding for me still for a bit, and running is definitely still out. I was really careful with my portion sizes during my inactivity and managed to not to gain weight. And I am happy to report that I have finally lost some more weight! About 3 more lbs. So I’ve now lost 5 lbs in 2+ years of training! I would love to lose another 5, but I am not holding my breath.  In fact, I fully expect to gain at least some of it back. Now that I’m training again I can’t eat like I had been. I need food to fuel my body. I like to perform well, and I don’t like to be grumpy all the time because I’m hungry. (So I’m going to eat the amount that I need to. I’ve always eaten well, so changing what I ate was never much of a weightloss strategy available to me. For me it's all about just eating less. And I am too old to want to run around hungry all the time. I've been there and done that. Not an excuse, just a fact about how I feel.)

But I discovered something important while I couldn’t do anything for over a month this winter – I love to train. I was grumpy when I couldn’t get out and run. I wanted to be outside moving my body, breathing in the chill air. Getting wet from rain and sweat. This is good, because it’s a healthier mindset. I was worried that once I could work out again I would have trouble getting motivated, but it’s  been the opposite. I’ve now been back at it for 2 full weeks, and I am happy to be back. Not running is hard, as is not being able to do all the exercises I did last winter that helped so much (some hip work and plyometrics, I can’t do one footed things on my left foot, and given that one of my issues is a stronger right side, just training my right would likely leave me more injury prone, not less.) I am in my usual high that I experience when I start working out again. I know that in a few weeks it'll feel much harder, and I will have to will myself to keep working. It's definitely not all rainbows and light.

But I have managed to stop the gain, no small feat at my age, my love handles are less of a handful than they were, and my clothes fit me better. What really matters in the end, is that I am fitter, faster, and happier. I have more confidence, and that means that I look better, because I carry myself differently. It’s really hard to underestimate the power of confidence. I had a friend in my early twenties who was a large woman. But she carried herself like she was the most beautiful woman in the world. And men responded, everyone responded actually. I remember hearing guys say things like ‘I don’t know what it is about her. I normally don’t like heavy women, but she’s hot.’ She was always the woman in the room who attracted the most attention, and it was all about how she projected herself. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that she had fantastic skin, which was almost white in contrast to her dark curly hair and blue blue eyes. She had all the makings of a striking woman, but without the confidence, it wouldn’t have been half as effective.) 

Anyway, I was excited to have my little moment on the scale. But I know that it’s fleeting, and that things that are more lasting, and more important healthwise, are also changing for the better.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The one thing I wish I knew before my first triathlon – swim slow!

Last week (or maybe the week before?) there were a few twitter accounts asking triathletes what the one thing they wish they knew before their first triathlon was. I responded to one or two, but also figured it might make a good topic for a blog post, where I have a bit more space to write.

My one thing I wish I knew before my first triathlon is to go out slow on the swim. In my first triathlon I got caught up in the adrenaline, and pace of the other swimmers in my lane*, and was off like a bullet. But I was dead tired halfway through the swim, gasping for air, and struggling to stay afloat. Because the swim is the first event that carried on into the bike, meaning that I was really wiped before I’d even started peddling. I learned my lesson and now go much slower in the swim. Frankly, that’s not where I am going to do any real damage to a time anyway, so better to be a little more relaxed and have loads of gas left in the tank for the other 2 events. I don’t mean go out like you’re out for a leisurely swim stroll, just don’t go out like a bat out of hell. Get into your (race) pace and stick with it.

*It was an event where we were put into lanes based on our stated times. So apparently we all had relatively similar swim times when we registered. But the speed in the lane was way beyond anything I’d ever done, and so way beyond the time I had stated. But it must have been a bunch of other newbies in the lane because we all did pretty much the same thing. I think I was out of the water second in my lane even though I had started in 4th or 5th, meaning that despite the blisteringly fast (for me) start to the swim for all of us, we all slowed down a lot over time.