Friday, January 18, 2013

January, you have been kind. No mean girl drama here!

After a tough December of running injured, this has been a very kind January indeed. Back on track, feeling good, feeling strong, feeling like me again and ready to race.

Two injuries, low mileage, and not eating what I normally would because of holidays meant for a tough December of running (but an otherwise fun and awesome month). I'm back where I want to be, and back to feeling confident about my 2013 racing plans. It was an awesome transition from pain to zero pain: not the usual gradual improvement, but a sudden change that blessed me one morning, was awesomely noticeable, and acted as a big lift to me as a result.

The one good thing about the injury period was that I worked harder cross-training. Since starting resistance training in the summer I've always enjoyed it. But now it seems I'm getting better at it, and loving it even more. I lose track of time and just love the feeling of a good burn toughing out a workout, and getting down and dirty pushing myself. Progress strength training is easy to see, especially because I write down the weight I used and the number of reps I achieve, and pat myself on the back when next time I am able to do a bit more. And I've read a lot about how women should be lifting heavier weights than most tend to do (out of fear of bulking up) and I have now gotten to a point where I am that girl who lifts heavy and is reaping the benefits. I have definitely earned the respect of some of the guys I see at the gym regularly who've had to, at times, lower the weight on the machines after I'm done using it.

As an aside, somehow I'm finding the co-ed section of the gym more inspiring than the women's only area. Maybe it's memories of high school and those girls-only Phys Ed classes with mean girl drama. I hated PE more than any other class, not because of the sports per se, but the drama. It may be all in my head, but I fear it may exist somehow at the gym. I don't want to be aware of that little voice inside that forgets she's fit and dwells on her imperfections. And somehow being around other girls, their bodies that have different imperfections than my own, and their judging looks of disapproval bring out the worst in my attitude (or rather, the fact that their eyes are open and my insecurities are drawing conclusions about what their eyes are "saying"). The co-ed area is mostly guys and the odd girl like me (yes, I'm an odd girl). And I'm happy to work out with the guys. I run with guys afterall, and some would even say they look up to me. And I have definitely gotten looks of approval from the guys when I pull the bigger weights off the rack at the gym.

Maybe it is the feminist in me that wants to see myself as just as capable of athleticism as a man. Or maybe just my competitive nature that likes knowing how well I'm doing alongside others, and it is hugely awesome for the ego to note when I'm fitter than a man or stronger than a man, when men are genetically predisposed to be stronger. And when it's clear that I am not stronger or fitter than one particular man, the comparison only serves to empower me with knowledge of what the human body is capable of. Or I just ask myself the question, "Could I out-run this guy? Ya, probably." I don't want to be lifting ridiculously heavy weights like a male bodybuilder or anything, but there's something humbling yet empowering about knowing what I can lift and how much it really is, or having an unspoken push-ups "contest" with someone across the room that can pull way more off than I can.

So I've upped my game at the gym, doing 2 long sessions of resistance training per week minimum: one day focused on arms and core, and the other day focused on core and legs. And then I do at least 2 other days a week of just core. The result? Huge confidence, arms I now love to look at, and abs that are slowly but surely getting definition. It's a long road yet. When you lose the amount of weight I did, that's the hardest spot on the body to tone and see definition. But I'm determined. Change is happening. It isn't vanity, well maybe a little, but I do find it somewhat unfair that I can run marathons, have lost the weight I have, but I can't wear a bikini. Operation-six-pack, here we go!

But the real result of the strength training has been that it's made me a better runner. That's where I started when I decided to start working out this way, with the goal of becoming a better runner. It was never about the six-pack and always about running better. Increased upper body strength means better posture. Increased lower body strength means more power in my legs. Both mean lower likelihood of lower back pain from running too much, something I am done with suffering from. And both combined means that running is feeling even easier and more natural than it ever has. I maintain good form and posture no matter how tired I am, and going faster is getting seemingly easier now too.

My next race is on January 27th. It's a little 8K race, with a bit of an elite crowd who runs it. It does actually intimidate me a little, as it won't be like my mid-week 8K easy run I do all the time. This one is serious. I signed up for this as a little challenge for myself to learn how to push myself harder in short distances. In my last marathon, exhausted, sick, nauseous, starving, with burning legs from cramping, I willed myself to sprint to the finish those last 7 or 8km. I was incredible! What can I will myself to do when all I have to run is 8K to begin with and fresh legs to carry me right from the start line? Who knows! They say that marathoners should sign up for shorter distance runs like 5 and 10Ks for that reason, to learn how to go all out in a short distance because everything we do otherwise is about endurance, distance, pacing, planning for what's to come later in your race, and conserving your engines in the now. I ran close to 6km yesterday in 28min with energy to spare so I wonder if a 40min finish for an 8K race is realistic. I'm going to try! And if I don't succeed in getting an awesome time, I will for sure learn from the experience of trying. I was worried I wouldn't be able to do it after getting hurt but going fast is not only pain-free now, but it's fun. I'm excited to try to run this race fast.

Next run on the agenda is a 20km run. Long runs starting to get more respectable now with my next half marathon around the corner on Feb 10th and marathon training for San Diego pretty much underway as a result too!

Stay tuned for my race reports!


  1. I'm really benefiting from reading all your posts. I'm learning lots and am feeling inspired. Thank you too for the running plan you made me. I'm so excitef to get going on it. At times I can hardly believe that it's me saying these things as I've always hated exercising and have always felt like the fat girl.

    About working out in the ladies section, I prefer it. I get inspired by the really fit ladies but also by the older ladies there AND the ones that are also early in their quest for fitness (especially the ladies that are heaviee because they have faith they can improve like I have). I don't feel drama there but I didn't feel drama in PE class either! Interesting hey!?

    Thanks again Zahida!

  2. Thanks Kristy! I'm thrilled you're enjoying my blog. I just try to be honest here and it helps me have a positive attitude to write about things here - good reflection tool for the work I've done and something I can look back on too for myself and re-read. I can't wait for you to get started on your training for your race too. And just because I have the plan starting in early Feb, doesn't mean you can't start it now with the sunshine we're getting! Anytime you want to chat running, let me know. Any questions at all, ask :) Happy to share because running is my favourite thing in the world and I love talking about it.

    As for sections of the gym, what you're saying makes sense. I think for me it really is in my head. The reasons I feel uncomfortable are perhaps a little immature :) I'll admit that. The trick is finding what does work for you. There's a reason why there's both sections, and why the odd girl like me is allowed to be in the co-ed area and it's not restricted to me. Can you imagine? A men's only gym? Yikes.. :) It started out with me working out in the ladies area, but I noticed it didn't have all the equipment I needed, the free weights weren't heavy enough, and there was one girl who did make some comments to me. Shouldn't have been enough to ruin it for me, but I've found my groove in the other area now anyway.

    When are we meeting up?

  3. Marty is hiking this weekend so next weekend if you can. Afternoonish either day should be fine. What works for you?

  4. I've sent you a text yesterday. Let's continue sorting plans that way. Easier than here :) hope we can make it work Saturday