The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Embracing Slow

When I competed in my last triathlon 21 years ago, I was slow. Since then, my biological clock has been working against me. If I believe the science (and I do), then I have lost muscle mass, my fast twitch fibers twitch with less enthusiasm, my stride has shortened, and a loss of flexibility has translated into less efficiency. As I get older, speed becomes more elusive. I can live with this. But if I accept my place in the triathlon world at the back of the pack, if my destiny is to exemplify slow, then the question becomes, why am I busting my ass in the gym 4 or 5 days a week? Glad you asked.
  • I may be at the back of the pack, but I’m in the pack. How many women over 50 do you know that are training for a triathlon?
  • There’s plodding gasping ugly slow and there’s graceful smooth beautiful slow. Guess which slow I’m aiming for.
  • I’m strong and healthy inside and out. This has given me beauty and confidence that I see and use everyday of my life. I am able to go outside my comfort zone and accept challenges.
  • I see the average 50+ year old woman. My friends, my colleagues, on the street, in the gym. Not for me. I’m not going there.
  • I was never big into team sports. I always preferred competing against myself. Measuring progress in terms of time and distance in 3 sports is more meaningful (to me) than winning with a goal in the last 30 seconds.
  • I like going to the gym. I see some of my friends there. I make new friends. It’s not like I have to make deals with myself to get there. It’s become part of what I do most days.

It takes longer to be slow. To be slow is to endure, to focus, to concentrate. Slow is about smelling the flowers. Its about the journey, it’s about encouraging others to set out on their own journeys. You just have to be in it. You don’t have to be in it to win it. Slow is looking BEYOND the finish line. Slow is flexibility and balance, in life and in the gym. Slow is music, a conversation, or a poem.

I like slow. I LOVE slow. I am going to live and breathe slow. I am going to blog about being slow. Join me, embrace slow. Slow is beautiful.

p.s. I haven’t totally given up on speed. Even if I am at the back of the pack, maybe I can realistically compete in my age group (maybe I’ll be the only woman in my age group).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cycling Haiku

Spring has come at last!
I rejoice with speed and miles
Oh my aching butt!

Silver with some blue
Designed for women, she rocks
Together, a team.

My husband asks me,
“Why are you obsessed with hills?
Just go out and ride.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Daily Dose of DOMS

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness has become a way of life. Every morning when I roll out of bed (and some days rolling really is the only option), I discover which muscles are sore and what movements cause the greatest discomfort. Sometimes it’s merely walking to the bathroom, or sitting on the toilet, or putting gel in m hair or shaking the juice carton (it’s amazing how many activities require muscles). Then there’s walking up the stairs to the train station with my backpack on, or reaching for the pen that has fallen to the floor. Some days are worse than others (like after not doing a strength workout for 2 weeks). Sometimes its concentrated in my upper body and other days in my lower body. Sometimes it eases as the day progresses and sometimes it gets worse. Occasionally I have to decide is this just DOMS or is it something a little more serious that requires a couple of days of rest. This morning was one of those decision days, and I have decided to rest. No gym bag in the car today.

I had Monday off (Presidents Day). It was a somewhat rainy day but unseasonably warm. I went to the track and did my DIY Bootcamp. I had run the day before and I didn’t want to simply run 2 days in a row, so I broke up some really slow laps with other activities. I jumped rope, did lunges, squats, push ups, and jumping jacks. I jumped up onto a low step, and dribbled a soccer ball. I brought an elastic band and did arm/shoulder exercises then tied it around my ankles and got my inner thighs burning good. Before I knew it, I had been working out for over an hour. And just because I still felt strong, I ran one mile, nice and slow. It was the easiest mile I have run in recent memory. I just floated around the track. I contemplated continuing to run, but luckily I thought about my knees. Yesterday morning was one of those days when rolling out of bed was the best option because I had DOMS in muscles I didn’t even know I owned. And my knees were sore. I swam last night because there’s no place like the pool when you are sore like that. And the hot tub! Today my knees are better but still asking for a day off. And all those other muscles are quietly rejoicing as well.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Swimmin' and Drummin'

On Saturday mornings at 8 am you will usually find me in the slow lane at the Masters Swim workout. I often wonder why I talked myself into getting up at 7 on Saturday to go wobble snort gasp burp, why I actually paid money to do this! But after swimming the first few laps all the "you must be crazy" thoughts dissipate and I just think about the 101 things the coach has told me to do. Today, I am pleased to report, I had a real swimming workout. I am finally at the point where the coach does not need to correct something after every lap, and I can swim in different gears (slow, medium, fast). Not so much freestyle, but even that is getting better. The swimmers in the fast lane cover about 3,000 yards during a workout. Today I swam about 1600 yards. And I made it to the end of the workout (most days I quit about 10 or 15 minutes before the end of the session. So, I'm getting stronger, I'm swimming better. Maybe not faster, but that will come.

After rewarding myself with hot tub time, I got into my regular workout clothes, clipped on my iPod and I was about to head upstairs to the land of electronic fitness (treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, etc). I overheard a woman talking about the Drums Alive class which was about to start. I ended up taking this class for the first time and it was really fun. You use drumsticks to drum on a stability ball. There are simple choreography/aerobic type steps and combinations, but it takes about 1 minute to master any skills required (hitting a big ball with a stick, sliding to the right or left, jumping jacks and grapevine). It was different, it was fun and it can be quite challenging if you want it to be. Try jumping around and drumming on a stability ball for about 45 minutes and see how your arms feel! Next time try that after swimming 1600 yards. I may have to take this class again!

Here's a video that shows a Drums Alive class:

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Things I Think About When Swimming

  • Keep your head down.
  • Breathe every 3 strokes
  • How many laps in 1/3 mile?
  • Haven’t seen my red and yellow socks in a while.
  • Lead with your elbow.
  • I should get a pedicure, even in February, because everyone can see my toes in the locker room.
  • Is that 8 or 9 laps?
  • How do good swimmers not snort water up their noses when doing the backstroke?
  • How difficult is it to buy a bathing suit if you are really obese?
  • Was that last thought disrespectful because I don’t mean to be disrespectful but it’s difficult enough for me to find a bathing suit that fits.
  • Why can’t the bathing suit industry make bathing suits that fit more than 10% of American women?
  • Do more than 10% of American women even want to buy a bathing suit?
  • Keep your head down and lead with your elbow.
  • Pierce the water and roll like a log.
  • Logs don’t have legs.
  • I know I’m supposed to know where I am by looking at the ceiling, but I still can’t swim the backstroke straight.
  • Don’t rest, just go.
  • Flip turns? Yeah right.
  • Hot tub hot tub hot tub.
  • Is that 13 or 14?
  • How come that lady swims like total shit and she doesn’t have to stop every 50 yards gasping for oxygen?
  • If I keep swimming, I’m gonna be a lean mean swim like a fish machine.
  • If I was a mermaid, I’d probably be a good swimmer because I would have learned how to swim as a very young child.
  • Keep your head down, rotate to the air every 3 strokes.
  • Lead with your elbow, feel your core rotate.
  • Think fish. But not scallop. I don't want to swim like a scallop.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Crap Cycle

On Tuesday morning I woke up at 5:40 (I teach an 8:00 lab so I get up earlier than usual). By the time I walked 20 feet into the bathroom, my head was pounding and I realized I had a really sore throat. I turned around and got back into bed. I got up again at about 8:00 to call in sick. Then I plopped down on the couch in front of the TV and slept another few hours. I felt like total crap. When I finally felt hungry, I told myself I deserved to eat some delicious processed carbs--- like a bagel! And hot beverages with sugar. I spent the rest of the day on the couch, in my pajamas, a fleece bathrobe and a blanket, trying to get warm. Whenever I felt hungry, I ate crap food because I had no energy to prepare or chew real food. That night I slept like crap. Wednesday was a little better, but still pretty crappy, so I continued to eat crappy food, watch crap TV, and complain about feeling crappy. Thursday morning was a little less crappy than Wednesday, and surprisingly, I had not developed a full-blown head cold. I decided it was time to break the crap cycle, so I packed a lunch of real food and went to work (even though it was my day off, I really needed to get some things done). I left the office a little early and by the time I got home, the crap-o-meter showed a much smaller number, so I cleaned up the kitchen, did a little food prep, and in general decreased the total amount of crappitating. I still slept like crap last night, but being optimistic, I put my gym bag in the car this morning. It’s been 4 consecutive days without working out and I feel like that is part of the crap cycle. I feel so much better about everything when I am working out regularly. Last week I bought Freestyle Made Easy, a swimming instruction DVD. I had an abridged version on videotape, but it broke. One of the non-crappy things I did during this crap cycle was watch the DVD 3 times. And now I need to get in the pool and start putting these skills into practice. Am I addicted? I want to lift! I need to swim! Show me a big red stability ball!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Big Do-Over

I spent 2 days in Albany, to attend a university wide meeting at the University at Albany, my alma mater. The place is almost unrecognizable from the days when I roamed the campus. The academic podium and the 4 quads are still the backbone of the campus, but so many new buildings have been added. And it seems like there are parking lots everywhere there are no buildings. At one point I parked my car near Indian Quad, where I lived as a junior, and walked to the Campus Center. Wearing jeans and a turtleneck, my nylon jacket with the hood up, and my backpack, it really felt like I was caught in a time warp. Oh, there were some big differences, like the fact that I never made that excursion at 8:00 am on a Saturday, and the MacBook in my backpack. But it sure felt plausible, maybe it felt more like a wish. I would love to go to college again, knowing what I know now, and having all of today’s toys. I would probably go in a different direction academically, and probably end up in a different place. It’s fun to think about that, what would you do if you had a big “do-over.” But more than that, in hindsight, it’s about viewing the whole college experience differently. I was so fixated on being a biology major and getting good grades, that I didn’t appreciate the other opportunities and resources that were laid out in front of me. It’s definitely one of ideas that I tried to convey to son #1 when he set of for his freshman year. I’m glad he joined a fraternity and hopefully he will get involved in other groups and activities as well. College is the time to try things on, see what fits, where does it take you. Then hopefully you won’t wish you had one big do-over.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Moving into February

January is done, in the books, and it was all about stepping it up. I made the commitment to a triathlon in 2008 and I put all the pieces into play to make that a reality. I started doing core workouts. I managed a couple of bike rides on the warmer days, but other days I took spin classes. I ran. I lifted. I added core/rotational exercises to my strength workout. I did real intervals on the arc trainer. I worked out with my trigrrls. I bought a new bathing suit. I joined the Masters Swim Team! I’m eating better (but there’s still lots of room for improvement here). Most important, this feels like a good fit, I’m enjoying working toward this goal.

Super Bowl Champions

Today I came to work wearing my Plaxico Burress jersey. Since I have clinic today, I wore a white turtleneck under it and a string of (fake) pearls. I had this big grin on my face all day. And when I wasn’t smiling because I was working, I was smiling on the inside. Because the Giants are Super Bowl Champions. It still feels like a dream, a fairytale come true. And my kids were there. As exciting as it was, it was even more exciting because I gave my kids this experience, this once in a lifetime event (if the Giants are in the Super Bowl again and we get tickets again, they are not getting the tickets!). When we got home from our friend’s house, DH couldn’t even get in bed. Even I had a hard time falling asleep. What a rush. So now it’s time to get back on track, to get back to the mundane……… until pitchers and catchers report!