Sunday, June 28, 2009

That Itchy-Twitchy Feeling

Addicted to exercise: Am I or not?

It's a question I've frequently asked myself over the last 15 years or so, sometimes more often than others. Especially when I didn't miss a day of exercise (bare minimum: a 30-minute sweat session) for more than six years straight. Yup, more than 2,000 days with no rest for the weary. (If this sounds vaguely familiar, you might have read one of my two articles about The Streak, as I called it--one in Conde Nast Sports for Women, and one post-Streak in HERS.) Even when I was in the midst of The Streak, I was convinced I wasn't addicted, just perhaps a wee bit obsessed. I finally broke The Streak on a three-month, around-the-world trip Jack and I took as newlyweds in 2000. I figured it was more important to return home with a husband rather than a high VO2 max or buff biceps.

While training for my last two marathons, I did fine on the rest days built into my training schedule. I didn't get antsy--not in my body, but more importantly, not in my brain. No nagging voice telling me I'd become a sloth if I didn't exercise for a day. So I hadn't had an "addicted or not?" thought in a while, but then today I started wondering again. Last night, I flew cross-country--three flights, ugh!--with the three kids and Jack to see my family in Connecticut. My plan all along was to do a Sunday-type workout on Saturday (I did a repeat of last Sunday's run up Terwilliger then swam for 50 minutes), then take today as a rest day.

Except when we arrived at my parents' house, despite feeling grotty from fractured, plane-seat sleep, I immediately started thinking I should go for a run. To shake the legs out, get the blood flowing, enjoy the fresh air, soak in the excitement of being on vacation with my family...and not sink into slothdom. Even as I type this, I'm still contemplating going on that run--and debating what qualifies as an exercise "addiction." What's the dividing line between dedication and disease?

I'd love to hear from you, especially as I'm writing about the topic this week for Dimity's and my book. Thanks.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Still Mixing Things Up

Nothing major to report this week--no naked bums on bike seats or PRs set. I continue being a cross-training maven, even slicing-and-dicing my Sunday long run. I only have a week left on my membership at my gym with a pool (I wasn't using it enough to justify the nearly $100/month fee), and I'm trying to squeeze in as many delicious swims as possible. So I drove to my club an hour before it opened, parked, and ran from there up Portland's most notorious hills--Terwilliger. It's not killer steep, just continuous for almost two miles.

I thought back on the first time I ever ran it, with my friend Ellison. It had seemed daunting, making my lungs want to jump out of my chest onto the pavement. Yet yesterday I felt like I was on a giant conveyer belt, effortlessly moving up the hill. The only hitch in my giddy-up was a lone car coming upon me while I was copping a modified squat (pee only!) in my running skirt. I just laughed at myself and kept running.

I trotted back to my then-open gym and hopped in the pool, getting in about a mile before the Masters group took over the lanes. I topped off my workout with an impromptu trip to Trader Joe's so I could cook a real meal for my man on Father's Day. I was home by 10 a.m., feeling a delicious sense of accomplishment.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Like No Bike Ride I've Ever Been On!

Perhaps I should preface this post by pointing out that the unofficial motto of the city I live in is, “Keep Portland Weird.”

On that note, let me tell you about the bicycle parade I took Phoebe and John to on Saturday (Daphne was home with her dad, taking a spontaneous nap). Given Portland’s strong and unique bike culture, it promised to be a raucous time. Lynn Jennings, my coach and friend, met us there. (That’s LJ, her dog, and the kids sitting on curb.) The parade was all I had hoped it would be—and more. Unicyclists; fancy-dressed women on hand-built tall bikes; families in Dutch Bakfiets cargo bikes; a guy in a cowboy hat on an enormous homemade Big Wheel with his daughter on a real one alongside him; a guy dressed as Gandhi pedaling along. A drum corps. And then, for the only-in-Portland finale, a brigade of naked cyclists. In broad daylight, met by wild cheers.

Agog, LJ and I cracked up and started snapping pics on our iPhones. It was way better spectating than my marathon, that’s for sure! All high spirits and pure fun. We were busting a gut laughing. Yet there sat Phoebe and John, acting no more surprised or shocked than they had been when the giant Big Wheel rode by. Phoebe finally asked me what was so funny, as she has asked me several times since. Seems my kids are totally unflapped by the sight of naked adults riding bikes.

It got me thinking: It’s not unlike how unfazed my kids are to the sight of their mother leaving for a 12-mile run—in a skirt—as they head off to Mass with their dad. Or the repeat scenario of their mom walking in the back door, drenched in sweat after an early morning run.

To kids these days—at least on the Left Coast--it’s just all part of this wacky, active world we live in.

If folks ask, I’ll post a few parade photos in a separate post.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cross-Training Maven

Training for my recent marathon, I adored the single-minded focus of my athletic life: running. Sure, I rowed on occasion, but it was during my training for Eugene Marathon that I decided once and for all I was a runner who rows, not a rower who runs. There was only one day during my entire three months of training that I felt burnt out on running. Otherwise, I woke up with fresh legs and a keen sense of excitement.

While I still passionately love running, lately I’ve been Queen of Cross-Training. My new obsession: concocting multi-sport workouts. My own personal duathlons and triathlons. I look forward to Tuesdays, the morning I ride my bike to the boathouse (few things I love better than riding my bike on nearly deserted streets, as they are at 5:00 a.m.!), row in an 8-woman boat, run a 3-mile river loop, then bike home. More than two hours of exercise. This week I’m adding in a Yoga for Runners class in the evening, as flexibility is woefully lacking in my exercise mix.

Last Thursday I cycled to my health club, did a challenging workout on the rowing machine, swam a mile, then biked home. My arms felt deliciously noodle-y for the first few hundred yards in the pool after cranking on the erg. On Saturday, I went on a 75-minute ride, then hit the weight room for 45 minutes. I would have stayed longer, but mothering-duties called.

I’m not neglecting running—on Friday, I hit the track for the first time since my May 3 marathon and yesterday, for the first time, I tackled the toughest climb on Portland’s eastside during my 10.5-mile run. I have my sights set securely on PRing in my July 11 5K, but for now I’m hopscotching my way there, jumping from one form of exercise to another.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I Finally Got My Legs Back

Running experts and research types say it takes roughly a month to recover from a marathon. On Hal Higdon’s site, for example, he says “it takes a minimum of two to three weeks for the body to recover from the strain of running 26 miles 385 yards. Return too quickly and you increase your risk of injury. Some experts suggest resting one day for every mile you ran in the marathon, thus 26 days of no hard running or racing!”

I read that statement about four days after my May 3rd marathon. Even though my gait was still hobbled, and my legs felt completely wrung out, I thought there was no way I’d feel tapped out for a month!
The only time I was more wrong was when I thought my then-two-year-old twins didn’t need to wear diapers during naptime anymore.

Don’t misunderstand me: I have certainly been running in the 30 days since my race. When I was out in Connecticut for my high school reunion in mid-May, for example, I ran every day of my 5-day visit, racking up about 26 or 27 miles. But I didn’t feel like my pre-marathon self, and my legs felt heavy. Other than the leaden legs, I couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong. I just felt “off.” I was starting to get a bit concerned, as I have a 5K on July 11 and a half-marathon on July 26. I told myself I just needed to continue taking it somewhat easy (no track or speed workouts) and to fuel well.

And, sure enough, almost a month to the day, my giddy-up returned. On Saturday, I felt moved to kick out two 8-minute miles on a 5-miler. The next morning, on my 10-mile run, I really felt like myself again. My legs felt fresh, but more importantly, there was an intangible “vibe” I felt that told me all was right again. At the risk of coming across as patchouli-and-chimes, I felt like my aura had been slightly off, but on that run, it was back to its bright, vibrant color.

Now I’m excited to rev up my speed—and shine my aura--at the track tomorrow.

Drawing is a portrait of me by 3-year-old Daphne.