February 2008

I was hoping to do Week four, Run 2 yesterday, but since I attended a conference all day, and had to leave at about 6 am to get there, and then drive an hour and half back to get home in time for a meeting, followed by another meeting. I was supposed to go to a photography class from 7-9 pm, but I had NO energy left in my body. I went home, ate a quick dinner and fell asleep by 9 pm. I’m glad I didn’t try to squeeze a workout in. My muscles need to rest, and my upper body is still quite sore from Tuesday’s “Muscle Toning” class. Ow!

I’m back at the conference today, and planning to do Week 4, Run 2 this evening at the gym. The weather this weekend is supposed to be beautiful, so hopefully I can complete Week 4, Run 2 outside by the lake. It helps me to keep mixing it up, running outside uses slightly different muscles in my legs than running on the treadmill does, and it keeps me from getting bored with any route or location.

Weight-wise, I’ve been holding steady at one number for about the past four days. This morning, after NOT working out for the first day all week, the number dropped down by one. Woo-yeah! I’m thisclose to seeing a different number in the tens column, which will be a major physical and mental victory for me.


I’m going to a conference for work every day this week, and today lunch was provided. There was a nice salad, something with chicken, and scores of delicious-looking cheesecakes and tiramisu… It was a bit hard for me to resist the desserts, although this morning I saw a number on the scale about a pound lower than the other number I’ve seen every morning this week, so that was nice motivation to avoid the cheesecake and stay focused on fitness. It wasn’t too tough.

Speaking of tough, I tried out a new “muscle toning” class today at the gym. The class basically involved lying flat on my back most of the hour lifting light weights for insane numbers of repetitions. Like, 100 reps with a 3 lb weight in each hand. OW! I definitely felt a burn, and I’m sure my arms will be sore tomorrow, but my heart rate never got over 110 the whole class and overall it seemed kind of wimpy. Plus the instructor was snotty, didn’t give any specific encouragement or tell us when we were on the last set, or even do the exercises himself. He just droned on “One and TWO and THREE and…” and might as well have been a recording. Annoying!

After the class I hopped on an elliptical machine and went at a medium pace (HR around 160) for just about 25 minutes. It was a short little spree, but I’m preserving my energy and legs for tomorrow’s Week four, run two on the couch to 5k program. I’ve read several personal accounts of people who are running the Couch to 5k program to help lose weight, and they describe doing really strenuous workouts on the “rest” days, and then wonder why they don’t have the energy to run and end up getting off track in the program. I’m trying to actually rest on the rest days, hence the scaled-back elliptical routine.

In other news, I’ve lost about 7.5 lbs in the last three weeks or so. It doesn’t feel very real to me, though, because I was UP about five pounds from my usual weight when I started this whole fitness escapade, so the numbers I’m seeing on the scale are still very much in the realm of “normal” for me. If I continue this way, and start seeing, for example, a different number in the “tens” digit of my weight, then I’ll believe that I’ve actually lost a statistically significant amount. Since I’ve completely devolved into frivolity (what is the blog for, anyway), I had a weird moment in the bathroom mirror at the convention center this morning where I was sure that my face looked different. Have I lost some lbs in my cheeks? Maybe so! For some reason “your face looks thinner! your face looks thinner!” kept running through my head while I was on the elliptical today. I’ve never considered my face a “problem area” so to speak, so it’s a little weird to be proud of a thin face. I think it’s just nice to SEE some evidence of change with my own eyes on my own self, scale aside.

Looking forward to Week four, run two tomorrow. Woo!

After a dismal week three run three (see below), I had some serious doubts about whether week four was going to be feasible for me. Weeks two and three both have nine total minutes of running in different configurations, a tiny ramp up from week one, which has eight minutes of running in one minute bursts. Week four, however, does not have ten minutes of running– no, it has SIXTEEN minutes of running. Meaning more than HALF of the thirty minute workout is now running. More running than walking!!! Nearly twice as much running as the previous week! It seemed crazy.

I went to the gym after work. I felt kind of hungry, having had a small and healthy lunch, and wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do this workout. But you know what? I did it! And it was awesome!!! Absolutely nothing hurt, I jogged SLOWLY through two three minute intervals and two FIVE MINUTE INTERVALS. My legs burned and sweat ran down my back and my heart rate got up to about 180 and stayed there for most of the time… but I didn’t feel like I was gasping for breath, I didn’t get a side stitch, I didn’t get that weird metalic taste in my mouth that I’ve always associated with running… dare I say it? I felt good!

I filled up a water bottle and drank from it during the walking periods. That helped. The gym gets hot and I’ve been getting very thirsty during my runs, so thirsty that little sips from the water fountain before and after running really weren’t doing enough to keep me hydrated.

I also slooooooooowed down. I can’t believe last week I was running at 6.0. That’s crazy to me now. At 6.0 I’m dying after about 45 seconds. At 6.0 my knees hurt and I get shin splints and all that other stuff. Last workout I slowed down to 5.0 for the runs. Today I ran at about 4.7 and it felt great! I know, I know, it’s barely even jogging it’s so slow, but if slowing down allows me to get through my workouts without pain or injury, I’m gonna go as slow as I can.

The run felt good, and I felt so triumphant afterwards. It was my most positive running experience yet. I even chatted with someone friendly at the lock check-in desk, and we commiserated about how hard those darn things are to get open. Days like these will keep me coming back for more.

My knees are sore today, so I went on the elliptical machine instead of the treadmill. I “ran” on the elliptical at a pretty mellow speed for 40 minutes. I wore my heart rate monitor and the machine picked up the signal, so I could see that my heart rate was pretty consistently around 160, never below 150 or above 170. It felt good. I sweated and felt really tired afterwards, but it was much easier than the running I’ve been doing.

I finally figured out how to work the combination locks on the lockers, and I even helped another lady who I saw getting frustrated when she couldn’t get her lock open. That felt good.

One thing that did NOT feel good was when someone came in with like ten pizzas, and huge foil containers full of salads, and five different kinds of pop and maybe even a CAKE and set everything up in the lower level of the cardio rotunda. Opening up ten boxes of Giordanos deep dish pizza in the center of a wagon train of fitness seekers on cardio machines just seems really cruel. Really.

Okay, I felt super good this morning getting up early and putting on my workout clothes and packing my street clothes and shower stuff for a trip to the university gym. I confidently presented my new membership card at the desk and asked for a towel and a lock. The guy working at the desk was actually polite this time, and he politely informed me that a towel would cost 50 cents or $50 for the year. Um, no. I told him that I had paid for towel service when I signed up. He looked up my “sales record” and it showed that I had not, in fact, paid for towel service, even though I know I checked the box for it on the form I filled out and totalled it up with the membership cost at the bottom of the sign-up sheet.

At this point there were people waiting behind me, so I stepped away from the turnstile and let them go in front of me. A manager of some kind was called, he looked and looked and couldn’t find my file. I’m willing to admit I was overreacting, but at this point I was so frustrated that tears started welling up in my eyes. Apparently the snide girl from two days ago who processed my membership screwed it up and didn’t credit me for towel service. I had to go through everything again, which was slightly complicated because I had arranged for the membership fees to come as a payroll deduction, which the guy working at the desk today had never heard of. Plus they were soooooo confused about why I got the “faculty” rate since I’m obviously like 18 years old, or I look like it anyway.

To add to my overall shitty gym experience, I STILL could not open the stupid combination lock they gave me. I asked someone in the locker room for help, so I hesitantly went back to the desk and asked for help. The girl at the desk shrugged and said she had never used one. THE GIRL IN CHARGE OF THE LOCKS DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO OPEN THEM! Aaaaaargh! SO at that point I just put the lock inSIDE my locker with the rest of my stuff and hoped that nothing would get stolen.

On to the workout! There was one treadmill available when I got up to the “rotunda” so I didn’t have to wait, which was nice. I brought my headphones and listened to CNN while warming up. Now, the way this training program has been going so far, I do three identical workouts in a week and then ramp up to a more difficult workout the next week. Since today was the third session of week three, I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult. It really hasn’t been too difficult even on the earlier sessions.

My body felt fine and my shinsplints seem to be totally healed. The running intervals were HARD though. I had to slow down a few times, and my heart and lungs were just killing. After the first three-minute running interval I started to feel nauseous and light-headed, so I got off the treadmill and went to get a drink of water and sit down for a minute to get a grip. I don’t know what was going on. I had a stomach ache this morning and woke up super early, but I had a normal breakfast, was hydrated, everything else you’re supposed to do…. maybe it was residual frustration with the snafus at the entrance desk, but after two short runs my heart was fluttering like crazy… it felt like I was having a panic attack almost.

I got back on the treadmill and walked for another five minutes or so, then ran the second 90 second interval, walked for another few minutes, then started running the second three minute interval, but I just couldn’t sustain it. I ran for a minute, walked for a minute, ran for a minute etc. until I had done the full three minute run, broken up with walking in between. Then, feeling dejected for failing at signing up at the gym, failing at opening my locker, failing at completing my workout as written… I walked for about fifteen minutes until my treadmill time was up. I was pretty much drenched in sweat, but I still felt like a dork surrounded by super-fit runners in sports-bras and tiny shorts running at 10mph and barely sweating.

The shower felt good and I felt pretty good afterwards for making the effort towards establishing a routine of gym-going. I am going to try to go every other day, to start with. Maybe more when I get more comfortable there and stop feeling like a misfit mutant for no good reason.

Monday I should start week four of the training program, but I’m not sure my body is capable. Week four has 16 total minutes of running, interspersed with fourteen minutes of walking. There are two five minute runs and two three minute runs. Considering how today’s workout went, I might need to create my own “week 3.5” on the program to get ready for week four. I’ll give it a try on Monday, though, and report back here how it goes.

I joined up at the university fitness center. It’s a bit far from my house, but it’s open long hours and has a lot more to offer than my school’s little gym. One word: Sauna.

Signing up at the gym was a little traumatizing. The girl working behind the counter was literally sneering at me the entire time. I think she thought I was lying when I identified myself as “faculty,” and when I asked for a tour I was a little worried she might throw up on me. Once I got in and made it to the locker room, I couldn’t figure out how to work my lock and thought better of asking Ms. Snide at the front desk for help with it. The “cardio rotunda” is a big circle of treadmills, ellipticals and stair-steppers. There is a sign up book where you can book time on a certain machine. Apparently I chose the most popular time to go (5:30 pm) because I had to wait 30 minutes for an open treadmill.

Each treadmill has a TV, so I watched the Simpsons (silently, since I didn’t bring headphones) while I went through the workout. My shinsplints seem to have gone away for now, and I slowed down my running speed a bit to keep my legs non-hurty. I walked at about 3.2 and ran at 5.1. The three-minute runs seemed to take forever, but that may have been because I was bored and didn’t have any music to listen to. It wasn’t physically too hard, although I did sweat a lot and huff and puff towards the end.

In my rush to leave the house and head for the gym, I had strapped on the chest strap of my heart rate monitor but forgot to grab the watch part of it that actually tells me my heart rate. I realized about halfway through my workout that the built-in heart rate monitor in the treadmill was picking up the signal from my chest strap. I wasn’t touching the hand sensors at all, and the numbers there were very closely consistent with what I’ve seen on other runs. Kinda cool.

Also, by slowing down a bit I kept my heart rate around 180 while running, which I’ve read is healthier than pushing it all the way up to 195 in a training situation. I want to be getting aerobic exercise, and 195 pushes me into the anaerobic zone.

So– three month gym membership. I’m pondering trying out a session with a personal trainer, or testing out some of the fitness classes they have there, or both. It was certainly a nice reprieve from the cold, cold weather outside. My membership expires May 20th. I hope by then I’ll be fit enough (and the weather nice enough) that I can run outside by the lake front. Here’s hoping!

Back out in the cold, cold windy lakefront a the crack of dawn with L runner. It was nice to be back out with L Runner, but having to wear five tops and three pants and two scarves and stuff is kind of a drag. I think I may have still frozen some skin on my cheeks. This week’s work-outs: Walk 5 minutes, run 90 seconds, walk 90, run THREE MINUTES, walk three minutes, run 90 sec, walk 90 sec, run 3 min, walk 3 min , walk 5 min to cool down. It went pretty fast. I think having FEWER intervals to count makes the workout go by faster, even though I have to run for longer durations.

Running for three minutes was amazingly a non-event. I ran really, really slow so as to try to not piss off my shins any more than I already have. Knees feel fine today, but shins and ankles are not happy.

Today was also the first day that I ran with my heart rate monitor on. Whoo-ee, I knew I was putting forth a lot of effort but I did not realize my heart was about to explode! During my warm-up walk my heart rate was around 140-150. When I started running my heart rate shot up to 185 or so. During the final run, the number crept up to 195. 195!!! That’s the highest reading I have EVER seen on my heart rate monitor. Up until now 185 was my max.

According to everything I’ve read about HR training, each person’s max heart rate is genetically predetermined and cannot be trained. Resting heart rate DOES change with training (lower= more fit). Many training plans involve training within different heart rate percentage zones. By pushing myself up to my absolute max until I can’t possibly run another moment and then backing off and walking, I’m actually doing High Intensity Interval Training. Whether this is the best thing for me right now I’m not sure… lots of what I’ve read says that it’s better to log a lot of relatively easy, low-intensity miles at first to build up strength and cardiovascular endurance. As my body gets more efficient running should become easier and I should be able to run without gasping for breath and sending my heart into insane overdrive.

I’m going to lend L Runner the heart rate monitor on our next run and see how his heart is doing. He’s much, much skinnier than me, and he could easily run a lot faster than I do, but he says that his knees have been hurting and the workouts are NOT too easy for him… I’m curious to see how his heart rates will compare to mine.

One other heart rate note: when I first got the monitor last year, I followed the instructions and testing my resting heart rate right after I woke up one morning. I got a reading of 89 bpm, which is quite high. I tested it again a few days ago sitting on the couch mid-day, and got 65 bpm. Elite athletes can have resting heart rates near 40 bpm or even lower! Since my goal is fitness (as opposed to weight loss, although I wouldn’t mind too much if a few pounds dropped off), measuring my heart rate is just another tool to track my fitness improvements.

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