Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Like An Angel

I'm not going to lie here. I watched the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show last night. I did not watch to feel bad about myself and aspire to be a thin model. I watched the show because I am in awe of their confidence.

I normally am not a fan of the messages that models give but the Victoria's Secret models are not your ordinary models. Yes they are super thin and may promote an unhealthy body image. But they really work that runway.

One things in my life that I have always struggled with is confidence regarding my body image. Even when I weighed about twenty pounds less, I still thought I looked like a cow.

There were so many times when I absolutely hated my body and wanted to look like a model. Luckily, I am mostly over that. I say mostly because I still struggled with my weight.

Ideally, I would like to weigh about twenty pounds less, which would still put me a very healthy weight and nowhere near underweight.

After I quit swimming  and left for college I put on weight. I am not overweight now, but I am definitely more than what I would like to weigh.

I am not going to say that everyone should watch a fashion show for inspiration, but for me it works. It doesn't necessarily matter what the girls weigh, honestly. What matters is how they present themselves.

I would be scared shitless to go out on a runway in lingerie for the world to see. I know it is their jobs to do that, but they do so very gracefully.

They always look happy, confident, and in control. They look like they can take on the world. I want that confidence and I am going to work towards gaining that confidence.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Must Be Having An Off Day

I was really bummed that I hadn't run since Thursday's turkey trot so I set my alarm last night so I could head out for a run this morning before all the rain hit us.

I woke up at 9:30, got dressed, and was out the door by 10:00. I started running but I felt terrible. I figured I just needed some time to warm up and then I feel good again. Not so much.

I wasn't even a mile into the run and I felt absolutely terrible. I just wanted to be done. I convinced myself to run until a hit one mile and then I could stretch for a little.

I was only planning on running three miles but after my terrible first mile I decided to just walk back to my apartment and focus on my workouts this afternoon.

Except my workouts this afternoon and evening felt just as terrible. I did an Insanity workout but kept yawning throughout the whole thing. No matter what I tried I just felt tired.

I am not really sure why I am feeling so terrible today since I haven't worked out much this week but I am just going to call it a day and go back at it tomorrow.

I hate having days like today but they are nice reminders that life doesn't go according to plan and we have to just give it our all on that particular day. Some days will be better than others, and we just have to deal with it.

So tomorrow, I am going to attack my workouts and get back to feeling strong and in shape. No more feeling tired. I want to feel alive!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Getting In the Holiday Spirit

Thanksgiving officially marks the start of the Christmas for my family and me. My mom has been working hard hanging all the Christmas decorations and putting up the three trees we have.

My goal this year is to make the most of this holiday season. It is my favorite time of year and there are many traditions that I want to make sure hold up this year. This is how I plan on spending my Christmas season:

1. Hanging Christmas decorations. I have been thinking lately that I should pick up decorations to deck out my apartment. I'm not sure about putting up a Christmas tree but other decorations are fair game. A little Christmas sparkle will definitely help me get in the holiday spirit.

2. Baking Christmas cookies. I absolutely love sugar cookies and can't wait to make some yummy holiday treats. This year I want to try making reindeer cookies. They are super cute and will be delicious too. I also want to try making something with candy canes. Peppermint is my favorite holiday flavor so any treat made with candy canes is sure to taste great.

3. Drinking hot chocolate and tea. Hot chocolate is a favorite of mine. Last year one of my friends gave me a white chocolate hot chocolate and peppermint stirrers. It is a truly fantastic combination that I can't wait to break out again this year. I also fully plan on taking advantage of Starbucks holiday drinks. I am not a big coffee drinker but I am a sucker for those red cups.

4. Watching an abundance of Christmas movies.  Elf is my favorite Christmas movie, and luckily it is played multiple times a week. I am also a big fan of the Santa Clause movies. It really doesn't even matter what I am watching as long as it is Christmas themed I am happy.

5. Listening to Christmas music. Luckily Pandora allows me to listen to as much Christmas music as my heart desires. I have already changed my radio station to one that plays Christmas music. I love falling asleep listening to Christmas music too.

I am also going to see The Nutcracker put on by the Russian Ballet with my mom and going to a holiday lights display with my family. Now I just have to convince my boyfriend to do all of the above with me!

How do you celebrate the Christmas season?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What I Learned...

... from the York YMCA Turkey Trot.

Even though I PRed at Thursday's turkey trot, I am not particularly happy with my race. I'm so glad that I did a personal best, don't get me wrong, but it definitely was not one of my best runs.

1. I need to start drinking MUCH more. I don't normally drink a lot the morning of races for fear that I will have to use the bathroom too many times. I didn't think this was a big deal until I realized that I felt so terrible during the race because I was dehydrated. I have dealt with dehydration before with swimming so I know how important getting enough to drink is.

2. Walking breaks are okay. I hate walking during races because I am tired. I do like to walk at aid stations, but that is only so I can successfully get something to drink. At one point during the race I felt mentally and physically exhausted. I decided to walk for just 10 seconds and that proved to be enough to get my head back in the game and ready to negative split the rest of the race.

3. A lot of things will go wrong that are out of my control. I didn't particularly like the course this year. There were a few spots where it was very difficult to pass people. I started to get frustrated and waste valuable energy over a situation that I couldn't control. I need to focus on what I can do to make myself more successful and ignore the things I can't control.

One thing I really love about racing is how much it teaches me about myself. I want to take these revelations and apply them to future races so I am always getting better and learning from my mistakes.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Interval Training: Insanity

I mentioned a while back that I bought the Insanity workout DVDs. One of my swim coaches actually had us do the workouts as dryland after practice and I became hooked instantly. I purchased the workout myself but haven't really committed to following the provided plan.

Since I will be starting training for my March half marathon soon I don't want to commit myself to trying to do sixty days of Insanity. I do want to do as much Insanity as I can though.

I have been consistently (meaning every other day) doing Insanity for about a week now and I can already tell that I am getting stronger. I feel more powerful and definitely more toned.

What is so great about doing Insanity is that it is interval training. You push as hard as you can for two to five minutes and then get a thirty second break. I still have to take some extra rest every now & then, but they becoming more infrequent.

Doing interval training allows my body to get a great workout and lets me push myself every single time. No matter how many times I do each workout I can still improve on my reps and form.

And Insanity is just one form of interval training. I only have access to my school's gym, which doesn't offer workout classes like a real gym would. And I really can't justify spending money on a gym membership only for the classes.

I can do Insanity in my apartment whenever I want to. I try not to do it very late at night because I'm sure the people living beneath me aren't loving my constant jumping.

But still, regardless of how you do it, it's really important to fit some kind of interval training into your weekly routine. You will love the results!

Friday, November 25, 2011

York YMCA Turkey Trot Race Recap

So I ran a turkey trot yesterday. So original, right?! I was so excited to be running this race with my family and friends.

The race started at 9:00 and we only live about 10 minutes from the start line so it was nice to be able to sleep in some. We left our house at 7:45 so we could find parking and then hung out inside the YMCA to stay warm.

I met up with my friend Paige who I used to swim with. She is still swimming but is getting more into running. She ran her first 10K in September and will be running her first half marathon in Pittsburgh in May.

We chatted for awhile and then decided to part ways to head for the start line. My super fast cousin and his wife went out early for a warm up because they are hardcore runners. I am not.

My dad, boyfriend, and I went over to the start line and mingled with some other friends that I used to swim with. (The race was put on by the YMCA that my swim team is a part of so all the swimmers run the race).

My boyfriend and I left my dad to go a little closer to the start line, listened to the announcements and rules, and then we were off!

My boyfriend ran with me for the first couple minutes but wouldn't stop tickling me so I told him to run ahead of me. He is faster than me so he took off sprinting, never to be seen until the finish line.

My plan was to run a smart race and negative split it. The problem was that I wasn't sure what pace to start out at in order to still be able to PR and run negative splits.

Before I knew it it was the first mile, run in 8:41. I was pleased with this split and tried to pick up the pace a little, but soon after I started feeling dizzy.

The second mile had a few small hills. Nothing like Baltimore, but enough to slow me down some. I really wasn't feeling all there during this mile and I started to think my chances of PRing were going out the window.

I stopped to walk for about 10 seconds in hope that I would start feeling better and then was on my way. I did start feeling better but not much. I just felt like I wasn't fully aware what was going on. Not a good feeling.

Mile 2 came in at 8:49. I was disappointed that I had slowed down but it wasn't that much so I hung on that little bit of hope I still had.

Mile 3 felt much better. It was run on a trail that was too narrow to really pass people, which was frustrating, but I love the trail anyway. It was a great feeling knowing exactly where I was and that I was almost done.

Mile three flew by and before I knew it the finish line was in sight. I tried sprinting to the finish but it really wasn't that much of a sprint at all.

Immediately after I stopped running I thought I was going to get sick. It was terrible but luckily nothing happened and I started feeling better after a few minutes.

Everyone had a great race yesterday, especially my boyfriend. It was his first 5K and he ran a 21:38! I couldn't be more proud of him.

To my surprise I actually crossed the finish line with an official time of 26:57, for a 1:23 PR!

My dad ran a great time of 27:42, the best he has run in a long time, and my cousin's wife finished in 23:45. My superfast cousin ran a 17:00 to finish 8th overall. Even more impressive is that he ran the New York City Marathon and hadn't run since then. His best 5K is a 15:56! Holy fast!

I hope everyone who raced yesterday had a great time and everybody had a wonderful turkey day!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What I'm Thankful For

Since Thanksgiving is only two days away I thought it would be a good time to really give thanks for all of the wonderful things in my life. Of course I am thankful for more than what is listed here, but these are just the main things.

I am thankful for my boyfriend. I have the more supportive boyfriend I could ever ask for. Every minute we spend together is perfect to me and I love absolutely everything about him. I am thankful for all the wonderful things he does for me. He has been with me through some really tough times but has always been there for me. I can't wait to spend Thanksgiving with him again this year and then celebrate the holiday season together.

I decorated his room for our one year anniversary. That would be 4,000 post-its

I am thankful for my athletic ability. I have had a bit of a rough journey throughout my athletic history but I am ultimately thankful that I am able to run, and swim, and do so many things that I wasn't sure if I would do again. I am so grateful for all the things that I can do and I try to never take any of those things for granted.

I am thankful for the new friends I have made at UMBC. I am a really shy person so I tend to struggle to make friends in new settings. One of the goals I set for myself going into this semester was to make a big effort to be more outgoing. While I'm not calling anyone my best friend yet, I am loving the small group of friends that I have to talk to about anything.

I am thankful for my family. I have had my ups and downs with my family but after my dad's cancer diagnosis around this time last year I have really grown to appreciate my family more. They are supportive of me and are always there for me when I need them.

I am thankful for my puppy. My boyfriend gave me a puppy for Christmas two years ago and she is the best puppy I could ask for. She is so playful and always puts me in a better mood. I love that she will love me unconditionally and never judge me no matter what. Plus she is really darn cute.

Oh, hey Gracie. Thanks for hogging my bed

I am thankful for the confidence running has given me. I have really struggled with self-esteem issues since I was a young teenager but running has helped me gain confidence. It makes me feel powerful and strong, and allows me to do something that I love without any pressure.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Home for the Holidays

Tomorrow is my last day of classes before I get to go home for Thanksgiving break and I couldn't be more excited. I have some really awesome plans for while I am home and can't wait to kick back and relax with my family and friends.

The plan is to get in a four mile run today, work on packing up, and have a nice night with the boyfriend, and then finish packing tomorrow morning before class. I am hoping to just leave straight from class to beat some of the terrible rush hour traffic that plagues I-695.

One of the reasons I am so excited about turkey day this year is that I am running a turkey trot. I have run this race before and absolutely love it. It is the perfect hometown race with tons of energy and fast running.

Yes, they really ran like that. Yes, that is a real live turkey.

I am particularly excited to be running this race because it will be my boyfriends first race! I am so excited to share with him the excitement of race day and how much fun racing can be. Plus my dad, and my cousin and his wife are running the race too.

Thanksgiving will be spent primarily at my boyfriends house, which has become one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions. His family always has a bunch of people over, which means a lot of food.

An Friday night will be spent with friends from high school that I haven't seen since the summer. I am so excited to see them because we really dont' see each other enough.

Junior year of high school, oh yeah!

And lastly, once this not long enough break is over there will only be three and a half weeks left until Christmas break! I can't express enough how much I am looking forward to this semester being over.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

25K Swim Challenge

I have mentioned before how I have struggled with getting back into swimming since I had surgery. Inspired by Mama Simmons swim challenge, I decided to create a swim challenge for myself.

Mine won't be nearly as intensive as her's but my goal is to swim 2-3 times a week until the end of the semester for a total of 25,000 yards by December 21. Each swim will probably be only between 1,600 to 3,600 yards.

I really like setting goals for myself and I thought would be the perfect way to start swimming again. 25K yards by December 21 is not a very high number but it is enough that I will not be overwhelmed but still able to succeed.

I want to try to incorporate some speed work as well as stroke work into my swimming. When I was a swimmer, butterfly was my best stroke. I want to focus on doing other strokes than just freestyle.

I really love kicking & pulling so I also want to make sure I do a lot of both. Ultimately, I just want to get back into the pool and get over whatever mental block has been preventing me from swimming this past year.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Next Semester

On Thursday I registered for classes for next semester. This is the first time that I was actually able to sign up for all the classes that I wanted to take.

I am most excited to take a class called Sports & Media in American Society, and to continue taking Russian. I was pretty nervous about taking Russian this semester but I have been absolutely loving it so far. I was worried about taking three languages at the same time but it has been a nice challenge so far.

I will be taking French, Spanish, and Russian again next semester, and I hope to continue taking all three for as long as my schedule allow me. I would actually like to try to learn Chinese but I don't want to drop any of the languages that I am currently taking.

I was really lucky that I was able to take my training into account when planning my schedule. I am running the Rock n' Roll USA Half Marathon in March, and then plan on training for something over the summer.

I have an idea of what I want to train for but I want to make it official before I post it here. I can say that I am really excited for what I have coming up and can't wait to start training.

I know this post is super random but I couldn't think what to write about. Plus I really don't feel like studying for the test I have on Monday. I'm such a good student, I know.

I guess that is all. Sorry this was so random.

Friday, November 18, 2011

When I Am Stressed, I Forget to Run

Truthfully, I haven't been running as much as I would have liked to since running the Baltimore Half Marathon. Don't get me wrong, I have still been running 3-4 times a week. But I would have liked to run more consistently.

This time of semester is where I start to feel burned out though. Just about every week I have at least one test and paper or major assignment due. I love school and working hard, but it really drains me.

I have been having a difficult time finding the motivation to work out because I am always so stressed and tired. I know that working out will help combat these two problems, but I am still struggling.

I also like having something to train towards. My next real race isn't until March and I don't want to jump into a training cycle too early. Without following a training plan, I sometimes forget to run.

This weekend, though, I am going to try to create my training plan. I am thinking about including a pre-training portion that won't be as intensive but will still keep me on track.

I am currently just looking forward to the Thanksgiving break I get next week, and the semester being over in a few weeks once I get back.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Lied

It is probably no secret that I am not exactly a speedy runner. Shocker, I know. I have never really worried about my (lack of) speed because running was something I did for pure enjoyment.

Well, I may not have mentioned that a few years ago when I was in high school I ran a 5K with my swim team. I had pretty much never run before but I was still in the best shape I have ever been in.

The race was a local turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning. We had swim practice 6:00-8:00 in the morning and then had to run the 5K at 9. I had nothing to eat all morning and knowing my previous habits I probably didn't have anything to drink either.

I planned on running this race with a few of my friends. We were only there for the free bagels afterwards. And our coach made it mandatory (minor detail).

Soon after the race started, though, I felt like I could really pick up the pace. And so I did. I ran ahead of my friends and was passing people like crazy.

And then by about 1.5 miles I couldn't even run anymore. I needed to walk. I stopped for a bit then continued running, but ultimately stopped a few more times before finishing.

I felt like absolute shit crap. I crossed the finish line never more happy that I was done racing. (I still liked racing in the pool luckily.) I didn't even check my time.

And then my coach asked me what my time was. Uh oh. I had no idea. I went to the results list and saw that I finished in 24:25. At that point I didn't care about my time except to tell my coach that I actually finished and didn't die along the course.

The point of this post is to point out that I used to not half bad at running. I ran a 5K at a 7:52 pace with absolutely no running previously. (I was in serious shape as a swimmer though).

I haven't even run one mile under 8:00 since I started running in April. Sometimes this frustrates me but most days I use it as motivation. I have it in me somewhere to run more than three miles under an 8:00 pace.

I might not get back down to that speed any time soon, but I will SOMEDAY. I know I have potential, maybe not much, but I have a lot of room for improvement right now and I am so excited for what will come of that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's Not Too Early for to Celebrate Christmas, Right?

The Christmas season is my favorite time of year. I love everything about Christmas and am always so excited to start the celebrations.

I am always so tempted to start celebrating Christmas as early as the department stores but I realize that is a tad over the top. I try to wait until after Thanksgiving to start celebrating Christmas so I don't seem like so much of a crazy person.

I got wind that Elf was on Saturday night but (un)luckily I had somewhere to be so I couldn't watch it. I guess I should mention somewhere here that Elf is my absolute favorite Christmas movie. I watch it at least twenty times a season and would watch it more if possible.

Once I watch Elf it means that the Christmas season has officially begun for me. I was super bummed that I couldn't watch Elf but I figured it was best that I didn't get all Christmasy yet.

But then something happened...

I was trying to study for my Russian test and decided to put on the tv to distract me a little. And then I saw it.
Elf was on TV! I watched about five minutes of it and then realized I really needed to study for my test.

I am getting really excited about Christmas coming up though. I go home for Thanksgiving on Tuesday and am running a turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning with my dad, my cousin & his wife (who both just ran the NYCM), and my boyfriend.

I am also getting pretty excited about the end of the semester nearing. I love school but I could really use a break right now.

So come next Thursday, I am going to officially start celebrating Christmas. I am thinking about even putting up a mini tree in my apartment.

Do you love the holiday season as much as me, or am I the oddball here?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ughh, Cooking

I have been learning lately that I need to learn how to cook. Since I am in college and live off campus in an apartment I buy most of my food. I do have a meal plan and eat on campus when I can, but there really aren't many healthy options and the food can really become repetitive.

Last night I decided to go online in search for some healthy recipes that I could whip up in my very outdated kitchen with my less than stellar cooking skills. Because I went home to visit my parents this weekend I knew I didn't want to make anything that couldn't easily transport back to school.

I decided on a fattoush salad recipe that sounded easy and Delicious.

I didn't want to make as much as the recipe was calling for so I scaled back on some things but it ended up coming out really well. I am so thankful to have food already made it to take back with me for the week.

I have a hard time getting to the grocery store during the week so I am thinking about coming up with a recipe or two and shopping and then making them over the weekends so I will be set for the week.

What are your favorite recipes? I could really use some ideas!

Friday, November 11, 2011

I Love Rock n' Roll

Back in August, I signed up for the Rock n' Roll USA Half Marathon in March. I was already registered to run the Baltimore Half Marathon in October but had never actually completed a half marathon when I signed up. I figured I would have plenty of time to get into half marathon shape.

After I ran my first half marathon in October the first thing my parents asked me once I was finished was whether I would ever do it again. My response was something along the lines of I am already registered for another one so I kinda have to. Honestly though, I was already thinking about running my second half marathon during my first one.

I knew I hadn't trained correctly so I wasn't going to be putting up any stellar times but I had so much fun running Baltimore that I knew running more half marathons was a must.

Earlier this week I received an email saying that registration for all Rock n' Roll races was $20 cheaper on 11.11.11, which happens to be today. I was already signed up to run in March so I felt a little disappointed that I didn't get to participate in all the race registering that has been going on today.

But when I was sitting in class this morning not paying any attention to the movie we were watching about immigration I decided I was going to find a race to register for. I haven't signed up for anything in awhile and I just love receiving those confirmation emails.

So I raced home after my morning classes to check out the tour stops, and found a race to register for. So as of about 12:30 today I am officially registered for the

Rock n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon in September

I wasn't sure about registering for this race now because it is pretty far away but I was ultimately enticed by the $20. I'm cheap, I know.

I am really excited for this race though because this will be the first race that I have to stay at a hotel for. I don't know about you, but I really freaking love staying at hotels.

So that it my big announcement for the day. If you are running this race of the half in March let me know so maybe we can meet up!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Love the Smell of Chlorine

Yes, it is true. I do love the smell of chlorine but that is simply because I was a swimmer for so long. When I walk into a building that smells like chlorine I am instantly comforted and feel like I am at home.

After my surgery in January I have had a very difficult time spending time in the water though. After this surgery was when I realized I can no longer swim competitively and that really drove me away from the pool.

Initially I had hopes of swimming all the time but after a few days in the pool with no motivation or goals I stopped going. I swam a few times a month but never anything really spectacular.

When I was at the beach over the summer I discovered how much I love open water swimming. I had never tried open water swimming so I was surprised when I absolutely loved it.

But living in Baltimore makes opportunities for open water swimming minimal. I swam a few times here and there once school started at the college pool but stopped so I could really focus on half marathon training.

Today I went for a swim. And to my surprise I really enjoyed it. It was only about 55 degrees outside but the school heats their outdoor pool so I swam outside. I like swimming outdoors a million times more than swimming indoors so I was ecstatic about this.

As soon as I got in the water I was at ease. I felt comfortable, relaxed, and unfortunately, slow and weak. But I didn't worry about that. I didn't stress myself out about anything. I just swam.

Today I ended up having one of the best swims I have had in a long time. I am not used to just going to the pool with nothing to train for but that doesn't mean I can't set goals for myself.

I am going to swim as many times as possible before the cooler weather forces me inside. More importantly, I want to find my love of swimming again, to go along with my love of the smell of chlorine.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

RIP, Toenail

Today is a very sad day for me. I lost one of my own, my toenail. I actually still have a tiny bit left but the majority of it fell off today.

Ever since my half marathon I had been having trouble with this particular toenail. It wasn't bothering me at all during the race but afterwards a man stepped on my foot causing all sorts of terrible pain in my toes.

For the first week or two after the race my toe really hurt but everything looked fine so I continued running. And when the pain stopped I figured my toe was all better.

WRONG! About two weeks ago I noticed that this toenail had turned a purple/black color. Instantly thoughts of losing my toenail flooded my mind. I was terrified about what would happen, but ultimately glad that at least it is closed-toe-shoe season.

Some days were better than others for my beloved toenail, but unfortunately today it bit the dust. On the bright side I feel like a real runner now.

I am going to look into buying some larger shoes so this doesn't happen again, and I am hoping it doesn't take too long for it to grow back.

RIP toenail, you will be missed.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dealing With Injuries: Part II

I wrote a post last week about my history with injuries and I wanted to continue discussing the topic. I know a lot of runners deal with injuries off and on so I thought it was something worth spending some time on.

I mentioned that I had to have surgery three times in three years at the end of high school beginning of college. These three years were the hardest of my life. I was often depressed and struggled with my identity. But I made it through those years and I honestly believe they made me stronger.

When dealing with injuries it is really easy to lose motivation and get caught up in negative thoughts. But that really only makes things worse. During these times it is really important to focus on the positive things in your life.

Find new forms of exercise to do if possible so you don't lose your fitness.

Revamp your diet and focus on healthy eating.

Set goals that are not related to fitness, such as reading more books.

Use this time to spend more quality time with friends & family.

Try things that you may not have had time for when you were in training.

Try to learn something new about yourself.

Plan you comeback!

Despite many setbacks I was always focused on what was coming next, even if I didn't always know what that was. When I knew I couldn't return to swimming I thought about how I would then have time to start running. And so I started training for my first 5K.

Now I am training for my second half marathon with hopes of completing a full marathon next year. The most important thing for me was to stop myself from listening to the negative thoughts. Once I got over them I started to feel like myself again.

Have you had any injuries? How have you dealt with them?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Inspired by The New York City Marathon

I wrote a post last week about how much I love The New York City Marathon and I can proudly say that I love it even more after today's race. I spent all morning tracking my favorite bloggers and friends during their races and followed the leaders on Twitter. I tried to watch the live streaming but I sadly could not get it to work.

I channeled all of the positive energy of the running world today into my 5 miler this afternoon and had an amazing run. I was so inspired by everyone out there who ran the marathon today that it made me less worked up about a silly 5 mile run.

Reading all of the tweets and tracking everyone made me really excited to start focusing on training for my upcoming races so that one day I can run the NYC Marathon.

I love how cheering friends on in races or stalking the NYC Marathon can really motivate me. Without these random motivations I sometimes lose sight of my long term goals and get caught up petty little things.

I realize I am blessed to be able to run and it is something that I don't ever want to take for granted. I don't want to look back and realize that I could have pushed myself harder.

My next real race is a half marathon in March, and I really needed the inspiration that the NYC Marathon brought to get me excited to jump into training.

Congrats to everyone who ran this race! I hope you loved every minute of those 26.2 miles!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dealing With Injuries: Part I

I wanted to write this post for awhile but I thought now was a fitting time given my current problems with my IT band.

As I have mentioned many times before, I was a competitive swimmer at the national level for 12 years. Swimming was what I was passionate about and was what kept me sane. It was essentially the most important aspect of my life.

I had always had some knee trouble and very flexible shoulders but I managed to stay relatively uninjured. I had some flare ups here or there but nothing that kept me out of the water.

Then, during my junior year of high school I broke my finger. The girl swimming in front of me kicked my finger and shattered everything in it. The bones were crushed, the ligaments and tendons destroyed. I went to the doctor and was told that I would need surgery immediately but I still probably wouldn't be able to make a fist again.

Due to the surgery I was out of the water for a month, which is a long time in the swimming world. I went to practice everyday and busted my ass cross training to keep some of my fitness. I pushed myself everyday and soon enough I was back in the water. With a lot of motivation and hard work I regained full use of my finger and hand. I actually ended up having a really great season, surprisingly.

Fast forward to the summer before my senior year of high school. I had been having a lot of shoulder pain that just wouldn't go away. I went to see my doctor and was informed that I had torn my rotator cuff and that I would need surgery in order to fix it.

I was devastated when I heard this news, but was even more crushed when I learned I would be out of the water for another four months. I could absolutely not believe I needed surgery twice in less than one year.

But I was serious about my swimming and wanted to do whatever was necessary to get me back in the water. At this point, swimming in college was something that I was very serious about and I knew that in order to be taken seriously by college coaches I needed to get back in the water.

I went through four intense months of physical therapy before I was able to start kicking again. It wasn't swimming but it was better than nothing. I was able to start swimming again in November, which was the same time of year I started after my first surgery. I had hope that my senior season wasn't going to be a complete bust.

But my coach was not the most supportive person. When I asked him about competing again he told me I would make a fool of myself and that "no coach or spectator would want to see me swim" because I wasn't in my best shape.

I quit on the spot. I had been swimming long enough to know some really great workouts and to know that I wanted nothing to do with this coach ever again. I was absolutely terrified about training without a coach for the first time but I knew it was the right thing for me to do.

Even without a coach though, I trained my ass off and had a really great season. I have never been more proud of myself. Everything that I had achieved that season was because of only me, I had done absolutely everything by myself. I even managed to get a spot on the University of Pittsburgh swimming roster.

Over the summer I joined a swim team that was about 45 minutes away from my house with one of my former swim coaches. I knew that if I was going to swim in college I would need to train with a coach again. But I loved training with him and I was so happy about where my swimming career was going.

When I went to school I was not in the best shape of my life but I was pretty darn close. I trained hard everyday because I had earned this spot. But as early as October of my freshman season I was having some trouble.

My left arm kept going numb and my hand was turning blue. I went to the ER a few times, where they initially thought I was having a stroke. It was then discovered that I had an extra rib near my neck which, you guessed it, required surgery.

I was more than devastated. I knew that I could no longer swim competitively. I didn't know what to do with myself. I had always been a swimmer and suddenly I wasn't anymore. I gained weight and completely stopped working out. I became depressed and was in a really bad place.

I had my surgery in January of my freshman year of college and stayed at home for my spring semester to let my body properly heal. The recovery was long and painful, but I began to develop hope.

I had been inspired by the New York City Marathon earlier in the year and so I began to run as soon as I was cleared to do any form of physical activity. I have absolutely fallen in love with running ever since but I have learned a lot about myself and about sports during this time.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The New York City Marathon

In my mind the New York City Marathon is the greatest marathon in the world. Growing up I never knew much about running or marathons but I knew about the NYC Marathon. Last year at this time I was trying to figure out a lot of things in my life. I was unhappy where I was at school and I was really struggling to find motivation to exercise. I had just found out I needed surgery and mentally I was just not in a good place.

And then I started seeing coverage for the NYC Marathon and I started to have hope. I had always hated running but for some reason I became very intrigued with running. Marathons in particular. I knew that marathons were something only crazy athletes did, which was part of the reason I became so interested in them. As soon as I heard about the Marathon last year I told myself that I would run that race one day. I wanted to be a part of such a special athletic event.

Part of my intrigue with the race was my love for the city of Manhattan. I have always loved big cities and New York is, of course, the greatest city on Earth. It is a place where people go to accomplish their dreams. I also love the wonderful fashion that is such a part of New York.

I don't know when I will run this marathon but I can promise you that I will run it one day. And I know that it will mean so much to me to be able to participate in the event that founded my love for running. 

Even though I am not running this race I am still soaking up all things Marathon. I have been stalking bloggers who are running the race and reading all the coverage on Runner's World. I truly hope that everyone who is running this race or who is lucky enough to spectate has the time of their life and enjoys every minute of this spectacular race.

When I need inspiration for training, I think about this race. I know that I will never be able to run this amazing race if I cannot run a marathon, and that enough motivation for me. I may be alone with my reasoning but when I find something that I want to do and has meaning to me I hold onto it for dear life.

I have read many race reports from bloggers like SkinnyRunner, Lindsay Runs, Fitness NYC and I have been reading unhealthy doses posts by bloggers running the NYC Marathon this year, such as Carrots 'N' Cake, The Blue-Eyed Runner, and The Hungry Runner Girl.

Good luck to everyone running The New York City Marathon on Sunday!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Adding a Little Spice to Your Run

Right now I am training for a 5K and it has been quite enjoyable so far. It has been really nice to work on gaining speed and building strength rather than endurance. I am still doing some longer runs but they are not my main focus right now.

I am far more interested in training for the Rock n' Roll USA Half Marathon in March, but I wanted to take the time I had after running the Baltimore Half Marathon to try some new things. I have been going to yoga twice a week, started doing Insanity again, got back in the pool, and started biking as means of cross training. 

But I also have been switching up the style of runs I do. I started doing speed work for the very first time and have been doing more tempo runs. 

Sometimes, though, a little creativity can really improve the quality and enjoyment of a run. One thing that I have been doing lately is incorporating stairs into my runs. Running stairs are a great way to bring in some interval training to a run and also work on increasing strength. 

My favorite stair workout to add to a run is:
2 x
sprinting, hops, and double stairs.

I have been working on adding another repeat each time I do stairs. I struggle the most with the hops. I find them very awkward and rather difficult, but I know that jumping really helps build strength and power in legs.

I find stairs to be the most beneficial and challenging thing to add to a run but I also have incorporated things such as push ups, crunches, planks, and jumping jacks. Adding these things to a run really adds some variety and can make a hard run seem like a totally different workout altogether.

What do you do to add some variety to your runs? Have you ever added stairs to your runs?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Importance of Stretching

I started running back in April by training for a 5K in May. Then I ran another 5K in June. Over the summer I decided that I wanted to train to run a half marathon. I decided on running the Baltimore Half Marathon on October 15 and started training right away.

When I was training for my first 5K I was never sore. I had been an athlete all my life so training to run 3.1 miles was nothing too spectacular to push my body to do. Because of that, I never really stretched.

Even throughout my half marathon training, I was never sore and therefore did not stretch. I wasn't running very many miles so I just thought that stretching wasn't really going to be able to help me all that much.

Then race day came. I was feeling great up until mile 9ish and then I started to develop a terrible pain in my right now that almost caused me to walk the rest of the race. I was too determined to run the whole to stop and walk but I was really hurting.

I was sore the day after the race and I did some stretching. Then I started running again and discovered that the pain in my right knee was still there. I tried icing, stretching, advil, rest, and when none of those things were helping I decided to see an sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon.

He told me that I had aggravated my IT band and that I could have prevented this by stretching after each run. I felt so stupid. I had always known stretching was important but I neglected to do it because I was never sore or felt I needed to.

Well now I have been stretching before and after each run. I am trying to do everything possible to make this a little flare up and not an actual injury. I am even working on getting a foam roller to help with this process.

So let me go on the record and say that stretching is incredibly important and absolutely necessary to keeping your body healthy. Please, don't wait until it is too late like I did. It only takes a couple minutes to stretch after you run and your body will thank you for doing so.

What are your favorite/most helpful stretches? Do you stretch after every run?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Welcome, November

As I'm sure you all already know, today is the first day of November. We have definitely been seeing lots of fall, and even winter, weather. There are only two months left in 2011 and I want to make them count.

This is my absolute favorite time of year, with all the holidays and snow. However, I usually put on some weight during this time of year. I am not super concerned with my weight but I really want to work on losing weight this year instead of gaining it.

Growing up I never liked this time of year but now I love it. I love the orange & red leaves, the cooler air, and everything pumpkin. And I am looking forward to so much more.

I can't wait for even cooler temps, running in those cooler temps, hot chocolate, snow, Christmas decorations, Christmas cookies, and fireplaces.

I am probably most excited about training for and running a Thanksgiving 5K. I have done a few speed sessions and have really seen some big improvement. Despite my recent trouble with my IT band I am looking forward to completely crushing my current 5K PR.

I have been a vegetarian for more than three years now but lately I have been struggling to incorporate enough fruits & veggies into my diet. I am making it my goal for this month to eat as many fruits & veggies as possible.

I want to get healthy and strong and I know that sticking to a healthy diet is maybe the most important way to do that.

What are your goals for November?