Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Swimming with the Fishes

So I am a water baby, makes sense since I am a Pisces I guess.   I can not remember a time I did not swim, I took swimming lessons as a child and grew up in a city with lots of lakes.  My best summer memories were swimming in the many Dartmouth lakes with my friends.  Eventually I joined a swim team in Jr High and I loved it.  Whatever level you are in there is an order to things, you start in the slowest lane as the slowest swimmer and work your way to being the fastest swimmer in that lane and then move up to the next lane, again the slowest.  I remember after I moved up a lane once, the lead swimmer made some rude comment that I was so slow and perhaps granny needed a walker, he was 11 and I was 14.  That memory was buried deep in my memory bank until Monday. 

I joined a master swim team in  January, so it has not been quite 2 months yet but I am getting back into it.  Again I started in the slowest lane and worked my way up and 3 weeks ago I was moved up a lane, I was thrilled.  Most of the swimmers in my new lane are Triathletes and only do front crawl, in fact I am the only swimmer in my lane who can do all 4 strokes.  When we do front crawl, I am the slowest, it is not my best stroke but when we do any other stroke, I am second of third in the lane.  Monday was a tough practice, we were doing 3x200 sets, not my favorite.  I am very aware of my shortcoming in front crawl so if I am causing a bit of a traffic jam of swimmers behind me, I step out and wait until they pass.  Imaging my surprise when a swimmer came up to me Monday and said perhaps I should go back to the slow lane as I was holding them up too much.  I was shocked and hurt, I did not know what to do.  It was almost the end of the practice so I hung in there and finished.

Today I started in my lane after checking the board, we were starting with anything but front crawl, I was safe.  My calf muscles were really sore today, they are still causing me issues and a massage yesterday really hurt this morning.  When we moved on to 3x100 front crawl sets, I moved over to the slower lane.  I was afraid I could not make the timings with my sore muscles and I did not want to cause problems again today.  Well you know what, I did it in the time for my lane each and every time.  I was good enough to be there!  I was so afraid of being in the way and I was selling myself short.  The only way to get faster is to push myself, not take the easy out and move to a slower lane.  Never again am I going to allow myself to be intimidated by another swimmer, if my coach thinks I am good enough, that is all that matters to me.  Everyone has to star somewhere so lets support others and encourage others, not put them down. 

Monday, 18 February 2013

Listening skills

So I am injured, after a tempo run on Friday my right calf muscle seized up.  I tried to massage and roll it, I tried ice and heat but on my long run on Saturday I felt a sharp pain and stopped...immediately.  I have a great chiropractor who does soft tissue work and he told me pain is the bodies early warning system that something it wrong.  A dull pain is OK, you can keep running but seek treatment soon or rest if it's minor.  A short sharp pain means stop, do not pass GO, do not collect $200.  I stopped, massaged the muscle, tried to start again and realized that would not be a good idea.  I called my chiropractor and got an appointment right away.  The muscle had seized up and releasing it was a very painful procedure and I have a high pain threshold.   No running for a week to give the muscle time to heal was his recommendation, I can swim and spin if it does not hurt but listen to what my body is saying.

As an athlete we are use to a certain level of pain, muscles get sore due to overuse or pushing too far and we are terrible at listening to what our bodies are telling us.  We take pride in our pain, our blisters, our muscle strains, it's our badge of honour.  Most of my running friends run with some sort of pain, heck I ran for almost a year with a pain in my right foot due to a collapsed arch. Pain is a sign that we are working hard and improving.  The trick is learning what we can run through and when we need to stop.  Stopping is hard but I would rather stop for a week then several months.

Some tips I have learned along the way to help avoid muscle cramps or seized muscles.  Drink water, lots of water through the day.  Drink electrolytes during your workout to replace salt when you sweat.  Stretch after every workout, my old running coach was a big advocate of stretching, lots of it.  She said you should stretch for 15 mins at least for every 60 mins of running.  Honour your rest days, your muscles need time to recover, they need a day off from time to time.  I like to have 2 rest days a week so I double up on workouts some days to do this.  Most importantly, listen to your body, figure out how it feels on a good day so you can identify a bad day and when you need to stop. 

I will spend the week cross training and letting my muscle recover, I ask a lot from it so it's the least I can do.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

What do you see when you look at this photo?  

A happy person who just finished an athletic event right? Yes, that is me finishing my first Triathlon in August.  When I look at that photo I see the roll of fat above and below my number belt, sad isn't it.  Yes I was happy I finally finished a triathlon but I was also sad that even after losing all my weight, I still looked like this.  This photo has haunted me for the last few months; it has pushed me to lose more weight this fall.  Well now I have started to train for my summer triathlons and I am struggling.  Not because I cannot do the workouts but because I cannot do the workouts feeling the way I do right now.  I have no energy, I am tired and the spark has gone out.  I really want to lose 10 more pounds but even more then that I really really want to do all my events this year, I want to feel better and I want my spark back. 

I turned to a wise friend who has been there and who shared the same struggles as I have.  I knew the answer deep inside; I just needed some to pull it out of me.  She is really smart and a great athlete so go check out her blog too.  Katie's blog

I need to fuel my body to do the work I ask of it, you put fuel in a car if you want drive anywhere, otherwise you stand still.  It’s simple but so hard at the same time.  I went to a blog she recommended and it said to maintain my current weight I need to eat almost double the amount of calories I am eating now, DOUBLE, oh my!  I am not quite sure I can do that but I do need to eat more, more good quality food.  I knew this, I know this, it’s just hard to believe that you can eat more and not put on weight.  

What I also realized this week through other peoples comments is that the mirror is a liar, it’s a huge liar and I should not believe it.   The mirror does not reflect the beauty inside a person; it does magnifies the tiny flaws we worry about on the outside.  The mirror does not show my creativity, my passion, my dreams or my soul but it does have the power to destroy all of them.   I will work at not listening to the mirror, the one on the wall and the one on my head, I will eat more to fuel my body to work hard and I will learn to love my rolls of fat in a tri suit, let’s face it, only a stick figure would look good in a skin tight spandex onsie anyway.  

Friday, 1 February 2013

Breaking Through

So I had my meltdown a few weeks ago and I made it through. I picked myself up, brushed myself off and got back to work.  I actually felt stronger, mentally and physically over the last few weeks. They say what does not kill you makes you stronger and that is how I felt. My running and swimming have improved, I felt better during and after each workout and I am getting faster.  I ran a 5K on my treadmill on Jan 4th in about 31 mins and I ran one on Jan 29 and I took a full second off my time, I did it for the first time in 29:41.  I was thrilled, first time under 30 mins!  My 5K time had been fairly consistent for the last year so this was proof that my hard work was paying off.  Sometimes we get so lost in the process and disappointed when things do not go as planned but if we stick with it, we do more then we thought possible.  

I am still struggling with my food intake, finding the balance between food intake and exercise and trying to lose 10-15 more pounds before Triathlon season starts.  I am trying not to worry about the weight loss, I am trying to make sure I give my body the proper fuel to do my workouts, if the weight comes off, great, if not that's OK too.  I have a big year of races and I will focus on fueling my body for performance rather then depriving it for weight loss.  I think we all want to be a bit thinner or better looking in the mirror but my body allows me to do things I could not even dream of a few years ago so I am going to say "Thank You" and treat it well.  

Part of treating my body well is the mental part, stopping the negative self talk, focus on the positive and celebrating my achievements.  I am trying to say, "I am" more then 'I am not", to think about what I am rather then what I am not and to catch myself before I say anything negative about myself.  It's harder then you think to break that habit but I am trying hard and I am getting better at it.  I am going to keep working on this going forward.