Recently, some of my favorite running bloggers have been posting rather honest pieces about the struggles they’ve had with their fitness and physical appearance as of late. I hear my own struggles through their words. I’m not going to divulge in specifics about what I’ve been going through like they have, partially because I’m trying to figure out how I let it happen in the first place, which includes a shock factor that still hasn’t sunk in. But also because, frankly, without the kind of reader following that they have, I feel like I’d be putting too much information out there without getting the level of impact back that my fellow bloggers are making by telling their own details. Also, I’m also not as brave as some.
Let’s just say this: the need for me to diversify my cardio and strength-training is really becoming apparent as my body is becoming far too efficient at running and I don’t get the biggest metabolic bang for my buck anymore. Also, I admit that I haven’t been the best at keeping a healthy diet: I’ve been indulging a lot lately, not just with my travels and training but by stupidly thinking that it wouldn’t– it couldn’t— affect me. Not me– a 5-time marathoner! I would tell myself, not out of arrogance, but disbelief that someone with the discipline of having trained for that many races could let things get even a little out of hand. It was something I needed to remember: just because I run a lot doesn’t mean I am impervious to the consequences of my unhealthy decisions. Running is not a magic wand.
Really, it’s not at all surprising what I’ve experienced. Marathon training makes you run more so you eat more and it’s all supposed to be a carefully-weighted regimin of calories in, calories out, but hey, I’m not perfect. For awhile, I didn’t feel like I could do much about the weight I’d gained until after the Chicago Marathon was over because all I was concerned about was getting through the race without an injury. That meant all non-running exercise, including critical strength-building exercise, was my enemy simply out of fear that I’d hurt myself. After Chicago, I took some time to recover and have been starting to go to strength-training and other cardio classes at the gym, but then I signed up for a half-marathon and wound up back in the same “I don’t want to get injured” boat. I admit that sometimes racing keeps me from reaching my full fitness potential because I don’t know how not to run or how to incorporate other workouts into my running reportoire. I always freak out that it’s going to lead to overuse injuries or I’ll turn into a thick muscle mass or worse– get a thyroid condition (this has happened to some people I know whose bodies freaked out on them when they kicked things up a notch).
People who have seen me in photos or in person, when I tell them about what I’ve gained, all I hear is, “Really? I don’t see it.” Or “You could fool me!” I appreciate that, but I can tell: I no longer have a socially acceptable pair of jeans. Skirts that used to give me parachuting abilities are hiking up my thighs on my power walk to work. I look like I have a permanent “food baby”, and my favorite sheath dress feels like sausage casing. Try getting through a 9-5 in that. It’s not about looking a certain way as it is about feeling a certain way. I feel uncomfortable in my skin– and not in just a “I don’t have a lot of confidence right now” way. I literally feel the weight I’ve put on, even if it is a relatively-speaking miniscule number. So because I feel uncomfortable, I need to do something uncomfortable because nothing is more uncomfortable than the way I feel right now. Discomfort is where change happens! Ugh.
Strategy time: sometimes small changes add up to big things so, the first thing I did was look at my diet. I realized I was consuming way too much sugar– even if most of it was natural sugar from fruits and unflavored, nonfat Greek yogurt. Here’s what I did:
- I cut out my pre-work smoothie (usually made with super sugary fruits like pineapple, mango, bananas, and strawberries) and replaced it with ice cold water.
- If I needed a sugar fix, I sipped blackberry tea or I chewed peppermint Trident (I am now a pack-a-day gum chewer…yikes).
- I left apples in my diet— come on, you need some fruit for the fiber and nutrients.
- I added more fat to my diet using a peanut butter and coconut oil blend on gluten-free, multi-grain waffles with chia seeds.
- I started relying on pickles for a fix to my cravings for salt and crunch (two pickles is usually quite enough).
- I pureed pumpkin, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes into soups for lunch, accompanied by a protein-packed veggie and egg tart.
- For dinner, I baked tilapia that I topped with creative sauces like a vanilla bean buerre blanc, roasted hericot vert, and a glass of wine.
- I ran shorter distances at faster paces.
- I took a Pure Barre class which kicked.my.ass and showed me where I was deficient in strength based on where I was sore the following two days (obliques, tricpes, and hips). I made those areas my focus for strength-training.
So, what happened? In 2 weeks, I dropped 4 pounds. Woop-de-doo, I thought, that’s just water weight. 4 pounds is nothing to me, considering the scale waivered a LOT in that 2 weeks. I need consistency here! I need something that works FAST, too, because even in the couple of weeks since I realized what was going on and started making small changes, I haven’t seen anything real happen and I need to see real, consistent progress that only empowers me to keep going.
This sounds like it could only be a job for Jillian Michaels.
Before I started running marathons, when I couldn’t afford a gym membership, Jillian Michaels’ $12 DVDs were my only fitness option, and for a long time, it worked. To be honest, I never stayed completely faithful to them– I admit I’ve never gotten past Level 2 of her 30-Day Shred DVD– but for awhile, hers was the ass-kicking I needed to stay satisfyingly in shape. But then running came into my life and I would go back to a DVD here or there, but it no longer became my fitness religion. Knowing that I’ve had success with her workouts and that she does deliver on her big bold statements of rapid change (the price being one HELL of a workout), I spotted the fix I needed in Target’s fitness equipment section: Jillian Michael’s One Week Shred. “Lose up to 7 pounds in 7 days!” was too good to pass up. No, I wasn’t looking for a fad diet here– I didn’t care if I didn’t lose 7 pounds in 7 days— if I could see the glimmer of a flat stomach peeking through the clouds of fat rolls, that was good enough for me to keep going past the last day.
Here’s the skinny (ugh) on Jillian’s 7-Day Shred: two workouts a day, one strength session in the morning and a cardio session at night. 30 minutes each. If you’ve done her DVDs in the past, you might be able to hang with them, but like I said earlier, I’ve barely made it past Level One of her 30-Day Shred. One critique I have about Jillian’s DVDs are that it’s really hard to just get started on them. For me, I go in all like, “Yeah, I’m gonna rock this out for 30 days!!” and then the next day, I’m so sore I couldn’t possibly try the workout again. So, her 30-Day Shred turns into a 60-Day Shred. Or I think maybe I should diversify and I reach for, say, Blast Fat, Boost Metabolism and I get through that one okay and the next day, I think I need to mix in some strength so I complete No More Trouble Zones which never ceases to slaughter me, and that leads to borderlining-injured muscles that are likely detached from my bones and flying as surrender flags. So then I go back to running, because I figure I’m used to that and it’s harmless and then I remember I love it and don’t want to do anything else. And a few days later, once the yeeeeeeouch feeling is gone, I’ll try a DVD again. By then it’s probably been a week and I’m still on day two. The momentum of doing one of her DVDs in a day-sequence as she has planned out kind of feels impossible to me. And I notice she came out with a Beginner Shred DVD, probably becuse her workouts are tailored to people who have some base level of cardio circuit training.
Why then am I going to rely on this one week plan to jumpstart my fitness? Because it’s only for a week. And it doesn’t demand that I get out of bed into a series of mountain climbers– I like waking up to a less chaotic but mutually effective workout. And I’ve been wanting to wake up earlier to go running– I am missing far too many sunrises around here! And I really do mean it when I say I am ready to kick up running a notch and start working hard to meet new goals. To say that it’s in sync with some of my longer-term strategies during this off-season is the absolute truth. Plus, I feel like the only way I can really get through this is to document it.
But before I go head-to-head with the industry’s toughest femme, I have to do some prep work. Here’s how:
- Monday: Run 3 miles, 60-minute Body Pump class, 3 x 10 burpee-jumps
- Tuesday: 60 minutes, Pilates class; 60 minutes cycling, 3 x 10 mountain climbers
- Wednesday: 60-minute Body Pump class; 3 x 10 burpee-jumps, 3 x 10 mountain climbers
- Thursday: Run 3.1 miles (5K race); abs
I will be starting this on Friday, November 28th. Why Friday? With the race and the holiday, I’m just being honest when I say it’s not going to happen. Also, my little sister comes to visit a week from this coming Friday so I will need to have had it done so I’m not ruining her vacation with having to do a two-a-day workout.
So here it is: out on the web where I am going to be held to account. If I am brave, I will post before and after pictures. I said IF.
Wish me luck!