Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Past

After ordering my holiday cards on Shutterfly I realized I had 8 years worth of Christmas cards saved to my account. I wish I had them saved going back farther! I keep every card I receive from friends and family every year in a box but I can't find copies of our own cards earlier than 2007 (pre-Shutterfly era.) I'll have to do some more digging though some old computer files I suppose. Oh well, let us reminisce a bit with what we have:








And finally... our 2014 card!



Monday, November 24, 2014

It's Not You, It's Me

My relationship with the Internet lately:



Or maybe it's you? Who knows. Seriously though, it pains me that something that has brought so many awesome people into my life is such a source of angst for me lately. I feel like can't take people these days though. From comments on political articles to inane bullshit on social media- I don't know what's going on with me other than my filter is broken. I feel like can't siphon out all the stuff that bothers me and focus on the good anymore. I probably need a break. In fact I'm sure of it. I took two weeks off of online interacting last summer and it did me some good. I'm just frustrated that I'm back feeling the same way again so quickly. I need to spend time focusing on people I enjoy in real life for a while and just try and forget all the racism, sexism, narcissism and other isms that have been infecting my bubble lately.

Backing away slowly.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Up the Wolves



One of my favorite Mountain Goats songs! (Also the only one I know how to play right now.) I duff the chords spectacularly towards the end but I keep on keeping on. It's what you gotta do.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Untogether



This is another one of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar- all of 20 years ago. It's still one of my favorites and I love singing it, even if my voice gets shaky and weird sometimes. It seems that all I play are 90s alternative songs and I'm cool with that being true. Maybe I'll rock some Liz Phair next. Or some Lemonheads? Sure.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monster Running

I had the best weekend! This was much needed too after a pretty "blah" week. Saturday afternoon Ava and I got dressed up for the Monster Run:

 Rainbow Dash and the TARDIS

Ava did the half mile Kids Dash with her friend Grace and they put on a show at the finish line:

Wings out!

I was proud of her for participating because really, running isn't her thing. However she wanted to rock her costume and hang out at the post-race party so she put up with the whole running part. I believe her words were something like, "We ran really fast at the start but then we got down the street and were all like UGH RUNNING IS THE WORST." Totally been there. 

After the Kids Dash I ran in the 5.5K race. (I know, I know,  a 5.5K? Huh?) Get this though- I won second place overall female! FULL DISCLOSURE: This was totally a fun run and there were obviously not a bunch of speedsters at this race. Still it felt super good to run at the front! When I was heading back after the turnaround I was all by myself and I got a few "GO TARDIS!" cheers from people. That was neat. Also I think if it had been an actual 5K distance I would have come super close to a PR. I guess I'll just have to race a 5K one of these days. 

This week I'm back to running bigger miles before tapering for Madison. I've continuing to incorporate more hills into my routes and it's giving me some confidence. I'll be in Door County running the Fall 50 relay on Saturday and the plan is to run all the hills (at an "easy" pace.) It should be another great weekend with friends! Yahoo!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Buh.

Iiiiick. Yuck. This week is gross. I'm feeling down in general and need to snap out of it. I've had my feelings hurt pretty bad and I'm letting it linger like a bitch, even though I know the best thing is to suck it up and move on.

I'm usually pretty good a letting things go. Or at least I'm pretty good at pretending like things don't bother me. I realize these are two different things though, and the latter doesn't really work out well most times. So now that I've decided that I'm indeed bothered and hurt I need to figure out a way to accept those feelings and move on. Sometimes people's actions towards you are really about their own issues and it's unfortunate when you just happen to be the one in the way. That's what the grown-up in me says at least.

Que sera. Life goes on. Clean cup, move down.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

(Soft) Rocked


In the spirit of growing and changing and trying new and exciting things that make me nervous, I'm signing up for Ladies Rock Milwaukee this winter. It's a weekend of workshops and songwriting that culminates with a bonafide rock and roll showcase on Sunday, January 18th. I busted out an acoustic guitar the other day and played one of the first songs I ever learned way back in 1993 and recorded it for my application. I flub it up a couple of times but hey, it's been a number of years. Sometimes I forget how much I love singing.

Monday, September 22, 2014

New Home!

I'm moving all my run/blog stuff over yonder:

Robot Lady Runner 

Considering I started this blog 11 years ago as pregnancy blog, I'm thinking it's about time for a refresh. For now I'm blogging all my run things there and will keep this open as my "family" blog. Maybe I'll move everything eventually. (I haven't decided yet.) Changes!


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Peak

If you’ve ever trained for a big race you know that there are both highs and lows. We’re not talking just mild little fluctuations either. There are HIGHS and there are LOWS. Personally, I have some days where my legs seem to float across the earth effortlessly as if was skimming over water. Then there are other days where my body feels so clunky and heavy that I start to question if previous race finishes were actually done by the same person.

Running is so much of a mental sport in addition to being incredibly physically demanding. It can be easy to forget those highs when we’re in the pits of despair. The trick is to know in your heart that even if you had a crappy run, a string of crappy runs, or even weeks of feeling uninspired about running, the pendulum always swings back the other direction eventually.


That was something I wrote at the peak of one of my marathon cycles. I have some pretty good insight sometimes huh? This is peak week for Lakefront Marathon and these words ring especially true right now. Right now I'm on a high, but good lord there have been some lows in this quest to BQ. The first tempo run I set out on back in July I completely bonked and had to bail. (This was after my mega-bonk at Sunburst Marathon so it was really not what I needed at the beginning of my quest to redeem myself.) Then there's been the humidity the past couple of months. I usually love to race a couple half marathons in my build up to running a full. It's a huge confidence builder for me. However this summer the two races I envisioned running fast at were engulfed in 90+% humidity and there was no way I was putting my body through 13.1 miles of race pace in those conditions. I ended up having decent times considering the circumstances, but I was left disappointed that I wasn't able to challenge myself and gauge my fitness level at a race.

But the pendulum doth swing. When I go back over my training log over the past 3 months one thing is clear. I am consistent. I persevere. Those first couple of weeks starting my new training plan were a little spotty hitting the paces but I've stuck with it. I've run my mid-week long runs, nailed my interval workouts and even done a fast finish 20 miler- something I've never attempted in training before. I've run easy on recovery days and all out on speed days. My mileage has climbed higher and higher and this week will top out at 65 miles. I've done my strength training as well as taken care of myself on rest days. I will not look back at these months and see days where I've slacked, days where I could have done better. That blog post I wrote back then finished with this line:

Sometimes it’s the biggest pain in the butt to reach that peak but man, is the view ever nice from the top.



I am looking forward to that view!

Project Blue

This happened:




Thursday, August 21, 2014

Adaptation

I really enjoy training. I feel like I might as well have a horn growing out of my head when I say that to people. So many people love to race, but not necessarily train. Obviously, I love to run races. Race day is my favorite! I love it when all the pieces come together and I can go out and crush a goal. Even if I have a bad race, there's something about seeing that finish line that gives me a rush like nothing else. Good or bad day aside, how do I get to that finish line though? TRAINING.

I've become kind of a training geek lately. I've never been the type of person who has to drag themselves out the door to go run. Even if I'm dreading a particular workout I still look forward to it. I absolutely LOVE a challenge. Something has clicked for me this year though where I'm really enjoying learning everything I can about the process of marathon training. I wrote a little bit about this on Dailymile the other day:

Heading into the final month before taper, I feel like I really understand the process of marathon training now. (Which is strange because I’m working toward #15. Huh.) I’m just really enjoying the ebb and flow of hard training and how my body is reacting to it. I look forward to the tough workouts of tempo runs and fast intervals but I also enjoy the easy pace recovery runs that follow. I imagine I can feel my body adapting with each new workout and on rest days I picture my muscles repairing and rebuilding themselves. It’s fascinating and a bit like magic at times. It makes me wonder where my ceiling is with this whole running thing!
As far as BQ-in goes, I’m also more mentally in the game than I was last spring. Back then I felt like “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this!” Now it’s more like, “I’m doing this.”
I like that I continue to learn new things with each training cycle. This time I've been really conscious of what I'm supposed to achieve with each workout- whether it's speed, endurance or recovery. I used to just run whatever pace I felt like all the time but I understand now that specificity in training is super important. I like the changes I'm feeling! Even if something goes wrong for me on race day this time around I feel like I've gained a much better understanding of how the process of hard training works. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sands Through the Hourglass


Juliana started high school last week. She is turning 14 years old on the 26th of this month. Ava performed with her band all over town this summer and is starting her last year of elementary school after Labor Day. I feel like I should have been blogging about these events but every time I sit down and try to gather my thoughts about my girls growing up I get completely tongue-tied. 

Of course I realize they’ve been growing up for a while. Ever since they were born, right? Something about this past year though- even this past summer- has left me reeling like a pinball, bouncing around from emotion to emotion, unable to get a good grasp on how I’m feeling. Is it sadness? Is it pride? A mixture of both?

When I’m out with the girls and we see babies or toddlers with their parents I often tell them stories about things they did when they were that particular age. Everything triggers a memory about them lately and I’ll start rambling about the funny words they used to say or certain places we used to go together. Don’t even get me started about Throwback Thursday (#tbt) on Instagram. Every time I post an old photo of the girls and do the math figuring out just how long ago it was it sends me reeling. How can it be 9 years ago that I put Juliana on the bus to kindergarten? Images of Ava with her ringlets of curls in 2005 feel like they literally just happened.


At 22 years old, I started having kids way before most of my friends. I lived a different life than most people my age during that time but I always loved it. I was always "Tracey with the 2 little girls."  These days I know so many new parents- either with super young kids or in the process of trying to start a family. I find myself on the outside again having children that could be their babysitters. At (almost) 11 and 14 years old my girls are actually closer to being adults than they are to being babies. I'm so proud of them, and even though I know the road from here to 18 years old is still long and filled with god-knows-what before Jason and I retire somewhere on the English Countryside, I sometimes miss the days of chubby cheeks, sweet-smelling hair, and tiny little voices.

My mind knows that they are growing up but in my heart I still feel like “Tracey with the 2 little girls.”








Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tweet Tweet

There are lots of opinions out there about social media. From it's the most amazing thing to on the internet to it's the downfall of real life communication and everything inbetween. One thing that is pretty much universally agreed upon though is that it's good to take a break from such things every once in a while. Unplug, if you will. Now I'm m not one to trash social media (and the internet in general) since I owe half of my current friendships to Twitter and Dailymile, but good lord I can certainly see the benefits of stepping away from the computer screen- even for a short period of time.

I tend to be a sensitive person. Not that I'm a fragile flower so-to-speak, but I'd like to think that I'm fairly empathetic. I find that I'm very affected by the moods of people around me and social media can really amplify that. I realized that I was getting to point that I was checking in on Twitter constantly- and consequently being very affected by whatever I was reading at the time.  And let's face it: a large percentage of the time people are going on Twitter to bitch. Truth. I got to a point where I was being drawn in too much by the emotions of all the people I follow on social media. I like these people most of the time but I just wanted a break from the constant chatter, you know?

A few weeks ago Jason and I took a road trip out to Boston. We visited some of my family in a nearby suburb and spent some time exploring the city for a few days. Still, any time we were waiting in line somewhere or stopping back at the hotel- basically any free moment there was some downtime I was refreshing my friends list on Twitter.

What the hell.

During the drive home I made a decision. No tweeting for two weeks. None. And absolutely no lurking around checking on my feed either. That's really the time suck for me. For every tweet I post there's pages and pages of scrolling and reading things I never comment on or respond to.  What I really needed to do was just go about my day without any outside influences to muck it up. And you know what? I'VE GOTTEN SO MUCH DONE THESE PAST TWO WEEKS. It's been amazing. Without the constant distraction I've been incredibly productive. On the flip side I'm sure I've missed about a thousand and three things going on in my friends lives but then I think back to 5 or 6 years ago and I realize I wouldn't have known those things anyway unless I called them on the phone or saw them in person.

I'm not quitting the internet. I'd be lying if I said these past two weeks haven't been kind of freeing in a way. And here's the real kicker: I still posted on Instagram even checked Facebook once a day. I wasn't even remotely "unplugged" in the real sense of the word. Twitter is different though. I once explained to someone as "an ongoing conversation that is always happening." You can always jump in. You can always find someone to talk to. You can also find about a million things to roll your eyes about and ruin your day.

Today I got on Twitter for the first time in two weeks. I posted a couple of things and scrolled through my secret "besties" list to see what people were up to. Then I closed it. I'll probably look again tomorrow while I'm having coffee. I enjoy it, really I do! It was really hard for me not to check in at first. I just need to find a better balance. First World Problem indeed.



Thursday, June 19, 2014

Graduations and Rock n' Roll

So proud of these girls.


Juliana, 8th grade graduation

Negative/Positive performs at Chill on the Hill

Looking forward to an amazing summer!


Monday, June 2, 2014

Sunburst Marathon. Whoops.


Yep. The look on my face says it all.


I won't lie. This stings. There are bright points however- most of which have come to me after pouting for a day before sucking it up and moving on.
I knew the forecast called for heavy humidity all week but I kept telling myself that at least the actual temperature wasn't going to be too hot until after I finished. (It was 85 that day but 60 at the start- maybe 75 by the time I was done.) My plan was to drink at every other water stop (of which there were 22- wow!) This would not only keep me hydrated in addition to my handheld but would also give me the opportunity to build in little 10-20 second surges every couple of miles to break things up.
I think it was somewhere between mile 2 and 3 where I realized I was already drenched in sweat. Ugh. I don't want to say I gave up there but in the back of my mind I feel like I already *knew* it was not in the cards for me that day. It felt so much like my huge bonk at Rockford Marathon a couple of years ago. I was hitting my pace at the mile splits but it didn't feel... easy. It wasn't "hard" either but it also wasn't the usual easy happy-go-lucky feel that marathon pace has been for me lately. It took some focusing to hold it there.
The course was actually very nice. It ran along the Saint Joseph river in South Bend for the most part and there were a number of out-and-backs so you were coming back on other runners a lot which is fun- especially for a small race where you could get really spread out and lonely. It was just sooooo darn humid. I was drinking tons of water but my mouth felt completely dry by mile 7. By mile 13 I knew there was no way I could hold the pace for 13 more. I felt lightheaded and and absolutely awful.
I stuck it out for one more mile and then I decided not to push my body past what it was meant to do that day. And it was not meant to run a BQ, that was clear. By mile 16 I started taking walk breaks. I ran/walked the last TEN miles of this god forsaken race. On one hand I felt terrible and wanted to quit, but another part of me knew there was no reason why I couldn't complete the distance. Sure I was wiping away tears here and there but I told myself that just because I wasn't going to run my dream time didn't mean that I should pack it up and go home. I drove 3 hours to be there anyway! That's a looooong drive back with no medal. So I swallowed my pride and finished the damn race.
I have lots of thoughts about this. I feel like I had to try again after how close I got at Wisconsin. Even blowing up the last five miles there I felt absolutely strong for 20 miles at marathon pace before cramping. I really feel like my fitness level was still there this weekend- I just absolutely suck at racing in summer weather. I really not good at it (as seen in previous hot weather marathons where I completely fell apart.)

I'm going to take June "easy," which works out since we're traveling for a week at the end of the month. Then when I come back its 14 weeks until Lakefront Marathon in October where I'll be putting EVERYTHING on the table. It will be the five year anniversary of my first marathon! My marathoniversary? I'll be able to have my family and my friends there to cheer me on as well which makes me really happy. I ran my first marathon at Lakefront, as well as my first sub-4. I now I will make it the location of my first BQ.



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hitting Reset

What, no Wisconsin Marathon race report? A little over a week after the race I've come to terms with it, considered my next move, and put a new plan into action. So I guess I'm already over what happened there and don't feel the need to rehash every step.

Did I qualify for Boston? Nope. Did I run my fastest marathon yet? Hell yeah! I'm happy about the PR but it was a bitter pill to swallow to run ahead of pace until mile 21 and feel the wheels totally come off. I kind of feel like I was due for something like that to happen to me though so when I look at the big picture, I'm not bitter about it. I'm taking the stance that any goal that comes too easy isn't an aggressive enough goal. It's the whole point of a challenge right?

So what happened? I'm still not exactly sure. Like I said, I ran ahead of pace (average 8:10) for 20 miles. Somewhere between 20 and 21 I started to feel a tightness in my left hip- which showed up right away with an 8:30+ mile 21. I remember wondering if I should stop and try and stretch but also knew that doing so can also mean the "kiss of death" in a marathon. It kept getting tighter though, until I felt so locked up that my stride was becoming obviously lopsided- and painful! So I did the unthinkable and stopped to stretch and then walked for about 30 seconds. Nearly a 10 minute mile 22. Ugh. At this point though I knew I could still squeak in under a 3:40 finish time if I could get back to running 8:30s for the last 4 miles.

Nope. I knew for the second I started running again that my body could no longer get back to that pace. It was infuriating, but at the same time I refocused on at least running a PR. All my body could do at this point was shuffle/walk out 10-11:00 miles to the finish. It hurt (in more ways than one) but I did it.

What should I have done different? It's hard to say. I felt like everything was completely on point for 3/4 of the race. I honestly thought I had it in the bag! This week I've spent some time researching why something like this happens late in a marathon and it seems to be due to running the same pace for extended periods of time on a flat surface. Um... check? So one thing I'm going to do next time is throw in some 20-30 second strides every mile or two to break up the repetitiveness of a single pace for long.

Next time.  When will that be? Honestly, the thought of going through another training cycle for 12 to 16 more weeks is not something that interests me. I feel like my fitness level is where it needs to be right now and all I need is for the pieces to come together on the right day. So... I'm trying again! In three weeks. I'm registered for the Sunburst Marathon in South Bend on the 31st! After taking a recovery week this week I feel like I can buckle down and be ready to race again then. Let's look at Wisconsin Marathon as a 21-mile training run at race pace... which a 5 mile cooldown. Ok? Ok. Let's go.

Marathon #13. Every finish is good. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Stepping UP

It's been a while since I've done a YMCA update (busy vacation-ing and running marathons I suppose.) This week though I finally made it back to try a new class! I ventured out to the Southwest YMCA in Greenfield to try BODYSTEP. 

Yes, I'm as surprised as you are that step classes still exist! I went through a Kathy Smith dvd phase after I had Juliana (almost 14 years ago- oof) and I was a step class regular at my local community center back then. So while technically I'm not a newbie, I knew I was definitely going to have to reach waaay back into the depths of my muscle memory for this class. 

First off, the Southwest Y is really nice! The indoor track particularly caught my eye on the way to class from the locker rooms. I'm told there's an outdoor track at this location as well. The studio my class was in had a lot of natural light and windows, which I always appreciate.  I set up my spot in the room, eyeballing what the other people had chosen. I decided to go with fewer risers on my step, but kept a couple on the side in case I wanted to bump up the height later on. No need to show off today, I thought. :)

Getting to work

Back to that muscle memory. It's a wonderful thing! Once the music started pumping and we got moving, everything started to come back to me. There are a few specific terms for different movements in a step class and when I heard them again I felt myself thinking, "Aha!" There's definitely a level of coordination involved that might frustrate some people, although there's also a TON of repetition which helps if it takes a while to catch on. One thing I really like about step is that you start with a basic movement and then build on top of it. As the class goes on you learn more choreography but you always come back to the beginning to put everything together. Also, it's a cardio bonanza. You sweat like crazy! If you like dancing, this class is probably a great choice. For a beginner there were lots of modifications given for the more complicated moves, and on the flip side there were many ways to make it harder as well (adding bigger arms or jumps to the movements or adding a riser to the step.) When I left, I daresay I was "glowing." It put me in a great mood. 


Next up??


Full Disclosure: I have been offered a free family membership to the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee in 2014 in exchange for blogging, tweeting and general social-media-ing about my experiences there. Hey, why not? Sounds good to me. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

BEACH FINALLY HAPPENED.



It happened so hard. And it was glorious. And we even had a side of adventure thrown in. For example:

ZIP LINE!


You might think that as a person who runs ultra-marathons that I have a healthy sense of adventure. However, when I'm not running I like my feet firmly planted on the ground (and let's face it, butt on the couch) so the fact that I hung from a wire high up in the sky above all the tree tops is something that I still have a hard time believing happened in my real, actual life.

But it did!

And then I showered in my air conditioned hotel room and marched my ass back to the pool for more pina coladas. I may have drank my weight in fruity cocktails last week. It was an impressive showing.




Seriously though. Just to lift my face to the sky and feel ACTUAL WARM on my skin was almost more amazing than flying through the air like an extreme-adventure-style-Mary-Poppins. After the winter we had here in Wisconsin (that at times felt like it would break me into pieces) I feel like I can hardly put into words the feeling of calm that swept over me to just dig my feet into the sand and watch the sun setting over the Pacific. I had been holding so much anxiety in my body leading up to this trip that it was phenomenal to relax and let it all fall away.




Getting a Swedish massage may have helped as well. And did I mention all those pina coladas?




Monday, April 7, 2014

Ch-Ch-Chisel

Episode #6 in my YMCA group exercise saga is Y-Chisel! (Gotta love the names of these classes.) After Combat, Blitz, and Pump I wasn't quite sure what Chisel would bring and how it would be different from the others.

This time I joined up with my friend Sara. We were the first two there but the instructor already had a mat laid out in the middle of the room with some weights and a resistance band so we sized up what she had and followed suit. I was still a little unsure how heavy weights to use so I ended up grabbing four sets to choose from (along with what I knew to be a medium-weight band.) This many weights was probably overkill but the class ended up being so small that I didn't feel bad taking so many options.

Getting down to business:

This class felt similar to Body Pump in that it had set tracks of music for different types of exercises. (Shoulder pressing, lunging, core work, etc.) We stuck to high repetitions of lower weights again, which kind of throws me at first because I usually like to use heavier weights. Despite grabbing one of the larger sets of dumbbells before class, I never used them! We also did a lot of exercises that used our own bodyweight. For example we had a few sets of plank walkups that seemed to go on forEVER. It was a real challenge to push through that track without stopping to take a break. Another track had us using the resistance band- lots and lots of glute kickbacks with the band wrapped around our feet. I certainly felt those the following day.

I really enjoyed how this class is a blend of cardio and strength work. My heart rate was up the whole time and the 45 minutes seemed to fly by. I also feel like I got a very balanced workout from head to toe. Overall I feel like the Y has a great mix of classes so you can switch things up a lot and not get bored.




Next up: ZUMBA

Sunday, March 30, 2014

This is an Update

Yep. It's been a couple weeks without any posting on here. Not that I'm a prolific blogger or anything but I've had a half a dozen ideas for blog posts this month yet I haven't sat down and let those thoughts materialize onto the computer screen. Honestly? I've been exhausted lately. Like, really really exhausted. I feel guilty about falling asleep at 8pm even before my kids to to bed, annoyed about all the endless baskets of laundry that are piling up, and sad about not being up to date with what's going on with my friends and family.

You could say that I'm overwhelmed. It would be the truth.

I feel like I attacked 2014 head on with all these things I wanted to do without thinking about how it would affect my day-to-day life a few months down the road. So now here we are a few months in and I'm all "When did 'The Year of Me Doing Whatever the Hell I Want' turn into 'The Year of Me Being Overcommitted and Feeling Inadequate All the Time?'"

Today I ran with Team Challenge (the group I'm coaching for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation) and I had a discussion with one of my team members about her fears training for the half marathon this summer. We were talking about wanting other people to perceive us a certain way and the words, "You don't have to impress anybody!" came out of my mouth. Good advice right? Sometimes I wish I was as good as following my own advice as I am at giving it. In reality though, I'm kind of full of it.

I need to figure out what things I want to do in order to be happy and not worry about how anyone else views the decisions I make. That, or I need be sitting on a beach in Costa Rica, fruity drink in hand. (Luckily that is actually happening two weeks from now! Thank Jeebus.)




Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pump it Up

Before I became a member of the Y, one thing I always heard from friends of mine who were members was: “BODY PUMP IS AWESOME.” Or maybe something like: “OmigoshBodyPumphurtssogoodyouhavetotryit! Also: OUCH.” So when the day finally came when I would finally make it to Body Pump at the South Shore YMCA I was…um...pumped? At the very least I was excited to take the class that I’d heard such good things about.


A lot of what scares people about a class like this is 1) There is a lot of “gear” involved and 2) There are lots of repetitions with the weights. Let’s talk about both.


1) Getting Started


It says on the class schedule to arrive early 10-15 minutes to set up. Although a seasoned Body Pump veteran wouldn’t need so much time, I got there 15 minutes early to talk to the instructor and figure out what weights I would be needing for class. In addition to mat I ended up with a stepper, two sets of light to medium dumbbells as well as a barbell and some varied weights to swap on and off of the bar depending on what muscle group we were working. Since I wasn’t familiar with the barbell she helped me figure out how much weight I would be needing and gave me some tips for how much weight to put on (i.e. start light and add if needed, squatting will be your heaviest weight of the day, etc.)


2) All those repetitions.


They are not kidding around.  LOTS of reps! I’m the type of person who is used to heavier weight/fewer repetitions so I was glad I listened to her advice to start lighter. What I thought was a good amount of weight for me would start to buuuurrrn about halfway through the song- whether it was overhead presses with the barbell or lunging lunging lunging again and again. Like the Body Combat class, each song had a “theme”. There was track for squatting, one for rowing, one for overhead pressing (and so forth.) By the end of class I had used every combination of weights on my barbell as well as both sets of dumbbells.




I can definitely see why this class is popular. A lot of people find strength training to be boring so the lively atmosphere and music help to keep the energy high. Plus, the higher repetitions add a level of cardio to the workout as well. So if you’ve ever gone back and forth about a Body Pump class don’t be intimidated! Just get there early, don’t go overboard on the weight and have fun!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

36

I've been around for 36 years now. (Insert joke about needing a walker or something about my lawn. Har har.) Anyway, I woke up this morning and re-read my birthday blog post from two years ago- which I still think has a lot of great points. Yay for wisdom coming with age! Although this year I have a few more things that I'd like to add to that list:


Don't be afraid to put yourself in vulnerable situations.

I'm kind of surprised I didn't have this on the list before, although I do feel like in this past year I've done more things that initially made me feel uncomfortable. I have to say that I've never regretted trying anything new, even if I felt completely terrified or awkward going in. (Somebody remind me of this if I ever get the chance to jump out of a plane.)


It's ok to be selfish.

Ain't nobody know your life! At the end of the day I need to take care of me. (You know, after taking care of everyone else. Heh.) Sometimes I need to remind myself that I can say "No" to people. I can't do everything. (Believe me, I've tried.)

It's ok to not have all the answers.

I was tentative jumping into being a personal trainer because I thought I had to know everything and be the absolute best in order to coach others. Now that's just crazy because NOBODY KNOWS EVERYTHING. I'm never going to be the strongest/fastest/smartest but that doesn't mean I can't help people get stronger/faster/smarter. Life is about learning and I'm never going to stop. (Can't stop, won't stop.)

Embrace your gifts.

Ok, I did include this last time but it's very important to me. I never want to stop feeling grateful for all the things I have in my life. Holy crap I've done some amazing things in the past 36 years and I can't wait to do even more! And I will be thankful for every last second of it.



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Getting Blitzed!

My latest class in my YMCA experiment/adventure was the lunchtime Y-Blitz class at the Downtown Y. It was my first time taking a class at this location and I went with my friend Sun so she could show me around bit before the workout. I have to say, this branch is pretty darn nice. It's newer and definitely has a more modern feel to it- although the layout that winds it's way through the Grand Avenue Mall building had me feeling a little bit lost at first! I especially was interested in the 1/6 mile track that goes loops through the whole facility.

But back to Blitz-ing. This class was BANANAS. I'm not even exaggerating. You only have 35 minutes to work but you better believe there is serious sweating being done every single second of your time there. Our workout that day was called "The Gauntlet". (Eeek!) It started with a sprint around the track followed by some jumps over stacked steppers and shuffling through hurdles. Then the really fun part: Each round we were given 4 different movements to perform. For example, 20 burpees, 20 squat jumps, 20 mountain climbers and 20 jackknife sit ups. Yes, that you read that right. 80 reps. Then repeat the whole circuit again and again as many times as you can. Every time we finished the track sprint and jumps we were given 4 new things to do. (Push ups, jump lunges, etc.) At one point Sun and I were doing dead lifts with gigantic kettlebells and slamming battle ropes in unison!

You can probably guess that this class is not for a beginner. I feel like I'm in really good shape and this was still a real challenge for me! I'm also pretty sure though that you would start to see results very quickly working out like this. It seemed like a lot of people there were used to this type of workout and they were performing like rockstars- although I didn't feel like there was a competitive vibe to the class at all. Everyone was just there to work hard and get it done.

So to sum up, if you're a newbie I'd wait before diving into the Blitz. However, if you're looking for a new challenge to conquer and enjoy shorter duration, high-intensity training, then you may have met your match.



Next up: Body Pump


Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday, February 14, 2014

Body Combat: Boomboompow!

I think I found my favorite Y class! (At least so far.) Sunday morning I took Body Combat for the first time at the South Shore YMCA and I feel like this class totally gets me. It's a super high energy cardio class where you punch, kick, shuffle and jump your way through choreographed movements set to some heart pumping music. There are no gloves, boxing bags or other equipment, but your body is working HARD for the full hour.

I have to say a class like this may take a little bit of brain work and coordination at first but I feel like there was a lot of repetition with the movements so you have time to figure out what your body is supposed to be doing. The instructor I had took some time right at the beginning to go over proper form for all the basic kicks and punches we'd be doing. Also, each song seemed to have a "theme" of some sort where you focused on one type of movement in particular (squatting, kicking or punching, etc.) By the end you are throwing everything you've learned throughout the hour into one intense circuit. I felt like I was dancing at one point as I really got in a good rhythm with the music! At the end we finished up with a push up and core circuit on the floor.

I'd highly recommend this class to anyone who likes cardio-focused classes without the frills of tons of equipment or workout "gear." I also think it was a fun way to get some aggression out. The instructor, Sara, at this class was really motivating throughout and had us working hard. I will definitely be back for this one down the road.


Video from the New Orleans YMCA on YouTube.

Next up: Y-Blitz!

Friday, February 7, 2014

I Have Confidence in Me

Where to begin. This post has been percolating around in my brain for a week because I have a lot of feelings about this but sometimes it takes a while for me to extract all the feels from inside my head and make sense of them all. Here we go.

A lot of people know that I got my personal trainer certification last year. The one thing I didn't want to do upon obtaining my certification was to walk into a big name gym and get put an a virtual hamster wheel- training people who get a one *free* session with their membership and never seeing them again, leading huge classes where I'd never match all the faces with names, and putting all the focus on selling memberships instead of building relationships. I also wanted to have control of when and where and how much I worked as a trainer. Honestly, this is not something I decided to do in order to help put food on the table. We're good over here. I chose to do this because I have a genuine interest in the field and think that I have something to offer people.

So that's why I had my own business. My own sad, small, half-ass little business. And here's what I learned:

1. Marketing is hard. Business-ing is hard. And I am terrible at it.
2. It's even harder if you're marketing for a business you really only want to do part-time.

After a couple of weeks I wanted to block MYSELF on social media with all the shouting about bootcamps and incessant retweeting invites and reminders about classes I was teaching. I also had no idea how to reach out to people outside of my own personal network, which is why I mainly ended up teaching classes to friends, and friends of friends.

Not to say I didn't learn a lot of useful things. Once I started training actual people instead of memorizing facts and figures from a big book, things started to come very naturally to me. I even picked up some one-on-one training clients where I really felt like I learned a lot about modifying exercises to suit a person's specific needs, and getting to know them on a more personal level. I remember when I was first considering getting certified I asked a trainer (again a friend of a friend) what advice he had and he said, "Listen. People really just want to be heard." That advice really stuck with me because as I taught more people I realized that it was much more than just presenting some movements and shouting out numbers of repetitions at them. People hire a personal trainer or go to a bootcamp class because they're looking for some kind of motivation outside of themselves. They need someone to listen to them and help them find their path to success.

ANYWAY. Back to me and half-assing my way through my business.

I decided to take a hiatus from training over the holidays (except for the one client I was working with in-home.) It had gotten too cold and dark to host bootcamp classes at the park anymore and I hadn't secured an indoor space for the winter. In fact, I wasn't sure it was even worth it for me to try and rent space for the number of people I thought I could potentially get into a class over November and December. After the new year I was feeling kind of down about my prospects and was procrastinating about taking action when I saw that a small personal training studio in the neighborhood, Wild Workouts and Wellness, was hiring trainers. The owner, Amber, is a person with whom my social circle overlaps with a lot and I've always had my eye on her as someone I was impressed with in the Milwaukee/Bay View fitness community.

So I submitted my application. She called me. We met. And I got the job.

I feel like a weight has been lifted. Like I can finally get down to doing what I want to do. No messing around with sales and marketing and spreadsheets. I show up, I meet awesome people, and we get to work. I feel very lucky that I stumbled upon his opportunity and that I've been welcomed fully onto their little team. During this past year I had bouts of feeling like I wasn't a "real" trainer because I wasn't out there enough "in the field," so-to-speak. I was even pretty nervous walking into her gym and presenting myself as a real deal, legit trainer. But now that I've started coaching the workouts it's like everything is starting to fall into place. I really DO know what I'm talking about. People can ask me questions and for the most part I KNOW THE ANSWERS. And if I don't- well I then have the opportunity to learn something new. I've got tons of room to grow and I'm looking forward to growing it.


I've been doing this thing lately where I say to myself, "All you have to do is be yourself and everything will fall into place." It's a little Maria Von Trapp-ish but hey, it works me for. And it probably helps that being myself is also not being a jerkface. (At least I'm pretty sure I'm not a jerkface.)



Friday, January 31, 2014

Yoga: YMCA-Style

I've taken all kinds of yoga over the years. It's interesting to me because even though many of the postures will be the same, there's still a lot of variation in the styles of class you can take. I generally gravitate towards what a lot of people would call "power" yoga. I love Ashtanga because it's very structured and it makes me feel super strong afterward. I also went through a big Bikram phase and got pretty hooked on sweating it out in the 105 degree room.

The yoga class I took at the South Shore YMCA this week wasn't listed on the schedule as being a specific style so I wasn't sure what exactly to expect. We started class with a short meditation where we focused on tapping into our breath and letting go of any outside thoughts and distractions. I always like this because it can be kind of a jolt sometimes coming in from the car and snow and yuck and have to instantly calm your mind and be ready to move. The first half of class was mostly standing postures, in including sun salutations and various warrior poses. I felt like we held some the postures a lot longer than I was used to and I liked it. My quads were shaking at one point! When we moved onto seated postures it focused more on opening up the hips. We did some spine twisting and hamstring stretches as well. Of course, we finished class in Savasana (corpse pose) to let everything soak in.

Overall I felt like this class would be very accessible to beginners. I noticed the instructor suggested many modifications and everyone had a strap and block next to their mat if needed. The group exercise room at the South Shore Y is very large so the class didn't feel crowded at all. (Something I've struggled with at smaller studios before.) Although it was slower paced, I still felt challenged from having to hold some of the positions, and I noticed my abs were sore the next day so I obviously tapped into my core muscles.

Class #2 down! I took a rest week after running a marathon on Sunday but I'm planning on getting back at it next week!

Next up: Body Combat


Full Disclosure: I have been offered a free family membership to the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee in 2014 in exchange for blogging, tweeting and general social-media-ing about my experiences there. Hey, why not? Sounds good to me. 


Monday, January 27, 2014

Icebreaker, Architecture and Gifts

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood.” -Daniel Burnham


I mean really, who isn’t inspired by late 19th century Chicago architects? (Just me?)


I’ve been getting new inspiration from a lot of different places lately. A few weeks ago I was running laps on the track at the Pettit Center in preparation for the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon. After warming up I found myself running with a friend who is also a running coach. He asked me what my goal was for the Icebreaker and I hemmed and hawed about it, mumbling something something about how I’d run a 3:50 in Chicago but running indoors is another complicated beast and I *thought* I could maybe sub-4 indoors. He looked at me and said, “See there’s your problem. Don’t say I *think* I can do it. Say you KNOW you can do it. It changes everything.” He went on to tell me that I was capable of running way faster than I thought I could and I how I could totally be more aggressive with my goals and blah blah talent blah blah ability blah. (I’m paraphrasing, obviously.)


It was a pep talk I needed. I also proceeded to knock out a 20 miler with 15 miles of it at an 8:30 average pace that day. So I went home and promptly changed my Icebreaker goal to be sub-3:50. I did all the math for what my average lap pace should be. I ran two more long runs at the Pettit drilling in that pace for the bulk of each run. MAKE NO LITTLE PLANS right? And then I ran a 3:46:29 on Sunday.




I don’t know why I hesitate with goals sometimes. Except that, wait, I totally know why I do. I feel like when I say them out loud to people they become really real in the Real World and then there’s a new sense of accountability. However sometimes it’s that sense of accountability that can be the push I need to get to the next level.


I have a goal for 2014. I wrote it down just before the new year and I tacked it to my wall but I haven’t told that many people about it. (Mainly because of what I just talked about above.) On Sunday though before the race when I was looking for a place to stash my bag I came across this photo:


I read this and something just clicked inside of me. Of course it is! How cool/lucky/amazing is it that I can go run 95 times around the track and feel strong and happy and empowered while doing so? During the race, every time I felt fatigued or started to slip off of pace I said to myself, “Running is a gift.” Because it is. And I’m actually pretty good at it! So I’m embracing the gift and going all out this year. 



I don’t *think* I can qualify for Boston. I KNOW I CAN.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Spin it Out: Y-Cycle

I've taken a Spin class exactly two other times in my life. It's not that I don't enjoy cycling, it's just that with running and strength training and dance classes (and LIFE in general) there simply aren't enough hours in the week. With my new Y membership though, I have a goal to try as many new classes as possible over the next six months. So back to cycling it is.

I set up my membership this past Saturday at the South Shore YMCA in Cudahy. After stashing my coat and purse in the locker room I was still a bit early for the 9:15am Y-Cycle class so I wandered around the cardio room checking things out and hopped on the treadmill for a quick mile to get warmed up before heading to class.

I think one of the things that make people nervous about Spin classes is not being familiar with the bikes. I feel the same way. When I walked into the room it was already pretty packed with people warming up so I took the first open bike I saw and just started pedaling. Right away the instructor asked if anyone was new to class and if they had any questions so my hand shot up in the air. She immediately came over and helped me readjust my seat to the correct height and instructed me on how to use the gears and monitor my RPMs (revolutions per minute). This made me feel a lot more comfortable right away.


This particular class 45 minutes and out of that time I'd say 30-35 was moderate to high intensity cycling. You fit in a lot in a short period of time. We did a number of different circuits, including a slow climb, short sprint intervals and high resistance intervals where we stood up on the bike. One of the harder circuits for me was a longer, steady circuit where we slowly increased the resistance while keeping our RPMs the same. I really liked how each circuit was paired up with a song so I could gauge pretty well how much time I had before getting a break. The last circuit we did was three sets of one-minute sprints. It was pretty intense but it was fun to go all out at the end! We finished up with an easy cooldown and some stretching next to our bikes.

Overall this was a challenging and enjoyable class. I'd like to go again but mixing it up is my goal right now so I'm excited to see what else the Y has to offer.




Next up: Yoga!




Sunday, January 12, 2014

#YMCAMKE

In my life I have never been a member of the "Y".  I've been to several YMCAs for various events (trial classes, summer camps and birthday parties as a kid, etc.) but I've never myself been an actual member. Until now!

Full Disclosure: I have been offered a free family membership to the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee in 2014 in exchange for blogging, tweeting and general social-media-ing about my experiences there. Hey, why not? Sounds good to me. 

As you can probably imagine, my regular running/training schedule is pretty darn packed. However, I'm going to make an honest effort to try *new-to-me* cross training classes over the next 12 months. My goal is to get to one of the Y locations (most likely South Shore or Downtown for me) around once a week. As a trainer, I'm very good at structuring workouts for myself at home but I'm also excited to experience new styles of classes and different instructors again. Basically I just really enjoy learning.

Here's what is on my radar right now:

Y Cycle
Body Pump
Yoga
Kettlebell
TRX
I also might try (GULP) getting in the pool. We'll see!

Many of the classes have words in the description like FUSION, BLITZ and ABSOLUTION. I will investigate further as to what that all means and report back on my experiences here (as well as on all my other usual social "overshare" platforms.)

Here's to expanding fitness horizons in 2014!



Thursday, January 9, 2014

Going Aerial

For my "creative project" in December I stepped a little bit outside of the box. Or actually, into the air? Ha. For a couple of years now I've been really inspired by a friend of mine who does pole dancing. I mean, it's pretty badass right? Those ladies are STRONG. No joke. Anyways, I've been trying to figure out how I can fit a pole class into my schedule and last month while searching around I came across an aerial arts instructor who teaches a silks class at the Miramar Theatre.

What is Aerial Silks? Well, the best way I can describe it is that it's similar to pole, but instead you do all the fancy tricks and flourishes on a couple of gigantic strips of fabric hanging from a high ceiling.

Wut. I know! It looks a little bit like this:




And this:



Except not me when I do it because... hard. This I looked like:





I should also note that instead of being way high in the sky in these photos, I am a mere couple of feet off the ground. In fact, I plopped back down to the floor on my butt with my feet all tangled up right after these photos were taken. But whoa was it fun!

I can't even put into words how much upper body strength this took. And watching the instructor climb up to the tippy top of and get all bendy and twisty in the air was chock full of crazy. My arms were literally shaking at points to where I had to take a break and just watch for a while. (Oh, and I hurt for three solid days afterward. Insanity.) Of course, I'm pretty much dying to go back. A new session of classes starts in February! I am so there.

Backtracking a bit to make sure I'm being honest, I almost bailed on going to this class at the last minute. I was kind of terrified. Not that I thought I would hurt myself, but I was a bit concerned that 1) I wouldn't be strong enough to do it and 2) I would be the "old" lady in the class. (Ok, so one of those things turned out to be true but this old lady can hang with the young 'uns.) I'm glad I pushed myself in the end to try something that scared me because if I bailed I would have missed out on something amazing and fun. And really, who cares if everyone was 10+ years younger than me? I need to get over that crap.


2014: The year of doing whatever the hell I want.