Ironwoman Dreams

If I can do this, anyone can.


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A Purple A** For Stupidity: A Training Story

The American culture tends to value “heroic” acts, even when we’re not really saving anyone but our own egos. We all see the videos and read articles and watch moves about folks who suffered through pain and illness to achieve personal goals, and we gaze on those folks with eyes gleaming with admiration. It’s the “American Dream” that leads us to believe that, if we work hard enough, if we want something badly enough, we can achieve it. The more we push through pain, strife and suffering, the sweeter the reward.

As athletes, we understand pushing more than most people. We know that we must push past our upper limits at times to see gains in performance. Still, sometimes, it’s hard to gauge just how far is too far. Training for an Ironman, the culture is very much about pushing limits and pushing past pain that normal athletes would warn against. It is a badge of bravery and badassery to run 10 miles on a broken foot, or to cycle 80 or more miles in the heat ’til you throw up, and then keep going.

Lose an arm in the swim? Oh well, keep going!

Lose a foot on the bike? Keep pedaling!

Turn into a zombie on the run? Keep stumbling forward!

…And, if you quit, if you succumb to the pain, it is a stamp of shame. People pat you on the back, with that special blend of condescending sympathy and half-hearted encouragement, and you have a clear picture that somehow you’re a total loser that doesn’t deserve to be facing such a challenge.

Well, while people seem to be seeking Purple Hearts for their self-imposed bravery in action, they’re getting injured, a lot. Sure, we all need to push, but we all know that point at which the body says, “Nope!” If we keep pushing, we’re in for trouble. Ha, they should give out “Purple Ass” awards for those of us who push beyond that point, because, seriously, it’s ridiculous.

I earned myself one such award this week, after engaging in three consecutive days of full-body bootcamp. Given my travel schedule and my need to fit in three sessions a week, I was left with few options. I thought, “I’m not even that sore after class anymore, so I can handle three days in a row.” Three full-body, tough workouts. Three days in a row. Sure, no problem.  Never mind that I was completely throwing out the sound rules of strength training, that the body needs adequate rest to rebuild itself. And I am no seasoned body builder or strong person. I’m a total feeb. I can barely crank out five full “guy” pushups.

In Which I Do Stupid Things

Day one was a great, energizing morning class, where I felt pleasantly fatigued and pumped. By Day Two, I was ready to go another round that evening, although, initially, the exercises seemed a bit harder, the weights a bit heavier than they were the day before. The Day Two class involved a lot of jumping–in particular jump squats, which we did for four minutes straight–and the class stretched to an hour and a half because there were so many people in attendance that we needed to add a few more exercises onto the rotation. By the end of that class, I felt cooked. I found it hard to imagine waking up the following morning and immediately going back and enduring one more set of plyometric exercises, or chest exercises.

Day Two, still "possessed" by the workout bug.

Day Two, still “possessed” by the workout bug.

Now, for the past few weeks, I’d had an ongoing issue with my right hip/low back, where, upon rising from a bending over position, it would make a “click” noise. My chiropractor explained that it was tight, and helped it temporarily, but it kept coming back, and my low-density foam roller just wasn’t enough to “get in there” to make it go away. I had planned a sports massage while working in Vegas last week, but work ended up taking over, and so my clicks went un-fixed.

On the morning of Day 3 of my boot camping streak, I woke up with a larger degree of fatigue and soreness than usual, and the point where my hip was clicking felt tight and pang-y. It led me to question whether I should actually go through with this, but, of course, the drill sergeant inside my head, yelled, “Don’t even think about backing out now, wussy!”

I bolstered that thought with the idea that, maybe, the reason I never had achieved a strong, muscular physique was that I didn’t push myself enough. “If you want to achieve something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done,” I said to myself.

As I strolled into the room with all of the bootcamp stations set up, I thought, “Wow, my hip is really tight and twinge-y. I hope it loosens up.” The pain felt as though some evil cobbler elves were stitching my muscles together in new configurations, using a huge needle. I feebly tried stretching it, but the pain was in a place, kind of like that spot on your mid-back that’s tough to reach, that was just beyond the scope of any stretch I could think of to provide relief.

By the second exercise, bent over rows, that spot on my low back/hip began to “Nope.” It squeezed with a stabbing ferocity that made me sweat more than usual. I continued to move weakly through the exercises. Some were more painful than others. When it came to running, there was no way. I ended up having to skip a few exercises based on the level of pain that I was dealing with. My trainer friend lent me some muscle rolling apparatuses to help loosen things up.

I am in SO much pain!

I am in SO much pain!

When I got home, the pain worsened to the point of almost leaving me in tears. Luckily, I had two Ibuprofens left in the bottle. I quickly popped those and gave my chiro a call. He fit me in right away, and provided me some relief from the stabbing pain, instructing me to ice every hour.

Needless to say, I re-learned a lesson that I’ve learned before, which is: Listen to your body. Maybe it will take a longer road to get to your intended goal, but maybe not. At least you’ll have a more enjoyable ride. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

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Ad-Libbing My Exercise: A Travel Story

Like me, many professionals have to add the sometimes fun, but mostly burdensome travel to their regular schedules. I pop up to headquarters at least once a month, far away from my usual yoga studio, my bootcamps, my swim class, and my regular running route. Plus, travel usually has me on a tight agenda, making fitting in workouts slightly more challenging than it is at home.  Not only are workouts an issue, but, with business lunches, dinners, all day catered meetings, and other meal obstacles, traveling is a recipe for ruining the progress you have made at home.

See what I'm up against? This is not fair.

See what I’m up against? This is not fair.

Now, I am no saint when it comes to travel-based diet and exercise slip-ups. I’ve definitely had my share of “I shouldn’t have eaten that” or, “I’m too exhausted from traveling to hit the treadmill” moments, but I’m trying to work through these things because, hey, this is real life, and we have to learn to navigate every day, real life obstacles without being psycho or obsessive about it.

For every trip, I come armed. Here’s what I do to make sure my trip doesn’t trip up my healthy routine:

  1. No ‘fitness center’, no love. I always book a hotel that has a fitness room, and I try to book one that has at least multiple machines, so there’s less chance of a ‘machine hog’ situation. Sometimes it’s easier to get motivated to workout in a strange place if all you have to do is walk down a hallway or take the elevator.
  2. Plan your workout days. I bring a print out of strength training exercises from my trainer that I’m supposed to do, and I do what I can (depending on whether there are weights available to me or not). I figure out which days I’m going to do what type of workout, and I do them. Also, if you exercise in the a.m., you can explore the city after work, worry-free.
  3. Bring back-up. One of the biggest problems I have is with catered meals or business dinners. I’ve learned to pack my suitcase with healthy,low-sugar bars, raw nuts, and other non-refrigerated items to carry in my purse to keep me satiated throughout the day. That way, I can grab a little bit of salad at these things, and avoid the ravenous monster that threatens my ability to stay on track.
  4. Sleep. I know it’s tough to sleep in a new place. Usually, the first night, I toss and turn, which makes getting up early to work out that day seem horrible. I always designate Day 1 of my trip as my weekly “rest” day, whenever possible, simply because I know that my sleep will be interrupted. If I wake up feeling okay, I might jump on an exercise machine for some lighter, less intense activity.
  5. Know the workout spots. If you frequent a place often, sometimes it works to find some local fitness classes, or a running trail, just to keep you going in the right direction.

    Pre-printed exercises are portable, and FUN (okay, maybe not fun, but portable)

    Pre-printed exercises are portable, and FUN (okay, maybe not fun, but portable)

Like I said, I am no angel, and I do slip up, but I try to use these tools to keep the slip-ups pretty minimal.

Have a favorite hotel workout routine? Please share!


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Booty Kickin’ Fun!: A Training Story

Training for an Ironman, I always imagined that being in the best shape of my life would mean that I would also be the thinnest I’d ever been. I imagined a lean, mean, ripped body, and thought of it as a great bonus to challenging my mind and body to do things I never thought possible. What I got was an added 20 lbs, and a bonus 5 lbs afterward.

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I thought I’d look like her after the Ironman. “Ha” and “Ha.”

Apparently, it’s pretty common for endurance athletes, especially women, to pile on added layers of fat as they train long hours. The body knows how to protect itself. Come to think of it, the most weight I actually lost during my journey was during the beginning stages of training for the half marathon, when we were running no more than 8 miles, and revving up the strength training and speed during the week. 

When I came to my friend, Beth Bishop, a personal trainer at Mansion Fitness in Hollywood, CA, with my weight gain woes, she told me in her no-nonsense manner, “stop with the long, slow distance.” Instead, she recommended I partake in a strength training regimen, that I record everything I eat, and that I partake in swimming for cardio (for now), and yoga for mobility. 

Here’s where I insert whining, because, for most of my life, strength training has been boring, and difficult, and I’ve hated it with a passion. Beth convinced me to attend her bootcamp on Wednesday night with promises of “it’s so much fun!”  I guess that, if I wanted even a fraction of that IronWoman body I’d once imagined, I should start here.

During the week, I diligently continued to do my morning smoothies. Keeping tabs of what I was putting into my body made me feel more accountable for measuring everything, and also for staying “honest” in terms of the items I chose. I kept my goals on the fridge and wrote them on the chalkboard contact paper on my cabinets.

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Staying honest with my food made me feel more alive and healthy. I attended yoga on Saturday, actually got back on my bike with my amazing triathlete friend, Michelle, for just under 20 miles (on the Malibu PCH rolling hills even) on Sunday, and took another yoga class Monday night. During yoga on Monday, I noticed my tendons around my shins and ankles burning more than usual. When I woke up, I had Peroneal Tendinitis (inflammation around the tendon that runs under the ankle bone, and through the foot). I decided to skip yoga that evening, and plunged my foot into a bowl of ice water.

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The best cure for tendinitis.

By Wednesday, the inflammation was pretty much gone, and, by evening time, I was ready to rock and roll with this bootcamp thing. Thankfully, my friend and fellow IronTeam-er, Tiffany, was there as well, and we buddied up to go through a circuit of stations, which included a wide array of challenging exercises, like, step-ups, army crawls, butterfly sit-ups, ball crunches, bench rows, chest press, weighted squats, kettle bell swings, treadmill intervals, and lateral Bosu ball squats. We made our way around each exercise, while house music pumped through the speakers, and Beth made her rounds, correcting our form or encouraging our hard work. By the end of the hour, my inner thighs felt cooked, and my arms could not push nor pull to save their life, but I was smiling, laughing, and, yes, having fun!

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Tiffany and I smiling after our sweat session!

So, maybe, this strength training thing doesn’t have to be boring. It pushes me to do things I’m afraid to do because I think I’m not strong enough. I know that this is good for me in many ways.

Because she knows that I’m pretty tough on myself, another thing that Beth had me do, daily, was to write down one thing I’m grateful for. I utilized another chalkboard cabinet for this purpose, just as a reminder, to keep putting “gratitude in my attitude” even when my pants feel tight or I can’t quite “get” and exercise, or tendinitis creeps up to bite my ankle–it’s something I always have, and no one can take that away from me.

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That being said, I think we’re off to a pretty good start here. 🙂


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Shorter Is Sweeter?: A Training Story

When you lose a big amount of weight through training for endurance sports, you tend to think that the only way you can maintain that weight loss is through continuing to do endurance sports. However, like anything, the body can get “used to” doing longer, slower distances, and mine, with its miraculous endomorphic properties, quickly learned to store more fat, whether or not I was burning up 15,000 calories in a single weekend. I loaded on 20 lbs over the course of the year training for an Ironman, and, while some of that might have been actual muscle, most of it was not, and, when I slowed things down to a crawl afterward, I loaded on at least another five. 

I thought I could get back there with more running, but, as I kept upping the distance of my runs, my body stubbornly resisted dropping any weight, even when i was hyperthyroid (which makes everyone else in the world lose weight, except me). My muscles fatigued and I overtrained. I was getting really frustrated. 

The doctor told me to scale back on my running, to really keep my diet limited to 1500 calories/day, and to watch my carbs. I began making protein smoothies in the morning, eating 10-15 nuts as a snack, and sticking to salads, cooked veggies & protein (meat) as meals, trying to avoid bread and pasta, except for Sunday, my “carbs if I want to” day, where I could have some kind of pasta or bread dish for dinner. Still, I felt sore and unrecovered, so I went to my personal trainer friend, Beth Bishop, for advice.

Beth advised that I cut the whole endurance routine, and start strength training if I wanted to lean out and drop those stubborn lbs. She told me to lay off running altogether for a few weeks to let myself heal, and she recommended I get myself back in the pool. Tomorrow, I’m going in to have a fitness evaluation with her to see where I am and what I need to do, and I’ll probably join her bootcamp on Wednesday nights. 

It’s going to be a lot of change for me, but I think that my body needs a new challenge. So, for now I’m going to see where this adventure in strength training takes me: I’ll be a “Pumping Iron”Woman! 

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Fear my guns! (Not really, but…)