My Weekend Running Friends

running groupBack in April, I joined a local running group that my soon-to-be friend Michelle started on Meetup.com. Most of the new Meetup groups I get alerted to are in Orlando, but this one was local…I mean REALLY local. I could run to the meeting point (but I don’t). I didn’t know any of the group when we started, but many of them I’m happy to count among my friends now.

  • Jessica is my competition – we’re usually neck in neck. (But today she beat me, literally, by a mile.)
  • Jacqueline is my alter-ego…she has three kids,  just like me, and they run her in every direction.
  • Michelle is the organizer, and she shows up to put out cones and water even if she isn’t going to run. She’s the group mom. She also runs completely barefoot and is the source for many comments from other runners on the street.
  • Glenn is the one I never seem to see. Once he starts, I won’t catch a glimpse of him until after he’s doubled-back. Oh wait, put Giles and Charlie in this group too.
  • The two Karens never show up on the same day, but they’re both great runners and super fun.
  • Tam usually does the longest run, finishes near the front of the pack, then goes BACK out to find the last person and keep them company. So he does a couple of extra miles most days.

But in addition to the people I actually KNOW, there are the people that I FEEL like I know, because we see them every weekend. We run on Saturdays and Sundays, so I see these people so often I feel like I know them. And possibly because we live in Florida, in an older county, there’s a variety of characters that I swear one day I’m going to hand out party invitations too. Even though I don’t know their names.

The Bipolar: For example, there’s one man, probably in his 60s, who bikes for hours both days each weekend. He knows and recognizes each of us, and oddly, half of the time he sees us, he tells us to stop running, and the other half of the time he tells us to keep pushing on.

The Couple Who Plays Together, Stays Together: Then there’s a couple, maybe late 60s or even 70s, who go out on Saturdays with their dog. The man runs a 7-and-a-half minute mile with his stumpy-legged little dog on a leash. (I don’t know how the dog keeps up!) And his wife follows them on her adult-sized tricycle.

Yesterday was a new twist though – we met another lady coming the other direction, also on a full-sized trike. It was a bit of a sidewalk traffic jam.

The Zumba Lady: I’ve never seen her in  my local classes, so I assume she goes to a different gym, but one lady is always wearing Zumbawear whenever she’s out jogging. Hey, whatever works. Personally, until Zumba starts using dri-weave, I’ll stick to race tees!

Happy: That’s her name – she’s a lady that goes to the church we used to be members of. She’s the only 60-year-old I know with the body of a 25-year-old. She’s a power walker, and she always says hi, but half the time she doesn’t recognize me (I assume because I’m hiding behind my awesome runner sunglasses.) By the time I see her again, after we’ve both turned around and headed back the way we came, she’s usually figured it out.

Mr. and Mrs. Hardcore: Two of the only people who can’t be bothered to say hello to anyone else…IMO they take themselves way too seriously. Young couple, very focused on their run. VERY. FOCUSED.

The Bikers: This is a group of roadie cyclists out every Saturday morning in their logo-adorned jerseys. I don’t know when they start, but I don’t usually see them until I’m at least 4 miles in. Depending on how hot it is, I’ve thought about flashing them to see if I can make them all crash. Don’t judge me – by this point I’m nearly depleted of sweat, glycogen, and sanity…it’s a good sign that I’m thinking at all.

I really like that there’s a sense of community with all the runners, walkers, and cyclists out on the sidewalks every weekend morning. I find that it’s one of the things I actually look forward to each Saturday and Sunday!

My Newest Gadget – Bodymedia Link

Three weeks ago I lost 3 pounds. Yay!

Then over the next two weeks I gained them back, along with 2 more. Boo!

I have all the motivation to exercise that I need. What I don’t have is the commitment to cook eggs for breakfast instead of having a LARGE bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Or the willpower to stay away from chocolate Easter bunnies.

Three weeks ago, I did have all that. Why? Because I’m an information freak. I was logging all of my calories to My Fitness Pal just like I should. I was saving all of my workouts to Fitocracy so I could “level up” and get props from complete strangers. All of my runs were going into Nike+ so I could see where I ranked in mileage among my friends. (#3 for March!) I love logging and tracking all of this information.

Here’s what the “health” folder on my iPhone looks like. And I use all of these regularly.

iPhone fitness apps

The problem was, my friend Tiffany’s Facebook stream looks like this:

  • Lost 3 pounds this week
  • Burned 696 calories in my Zumba class
  • Lost 2 more pounds
  • Down an inch in my waist
  • Killed 1354 calories at Jani’s master Zumba class
  • etc

Blah. How does she know how many calories she burns? I estimate 600 for every one-hour Zumba class but I don’t know how accurate that is. And I sure don’t trust the calorie readout on my treadmill. So I asked her – to appease my inner information-junkie. And she told me she uses a Body Bugg. Well, I guess they are now Body Media instead of Body Bugg, but you’ll hear both. This morning she sends me a coupon code for 20% off! So I ordered one. (Click here if you want one, too. I’ll get a little kickback that maybe I can use to advertise my classes or buy some more whey protein or…)

bodymedia link

Here’s what the little “bugger” (get it?) looks like – it’s a white armband that you can see in the lower left corner of the image just to your right. You’ve probably seen them on Jillian Michaels or the Biggest Loser competitors. By the time I added in shipping and sales tax, it was almost back to the original price, but I’m still excited about it coming shortly in the mail.

So if you drive through my hometown and see someone running with their iPhone on one arm and a Bodymedia Link on the other, that’s probably me. Tracking mileage via my right arm and calories via my left arm. It’s an addiction.

What about you? Are you a technology addict – do you love gadgets like this? Are you an information freak, or do you do better just applying the tenets of clean eating and regular exercise without tracking everything to the nano-calorie level? (Yes, I just made that up.) Let me know below…I’m curious.

Running Update and Exertion Headaches

Running

Nope, I don’t look like that yet. But I had to put some kind of photo into the post, ya know.

I just realized I haven’t posted an update on my running since my marathon obsession post back in the first part of the year. It’s not because it was short-lived; in fact, I’m up to 6 miles on my weekend long runs, and that includes having to take a 3-week break in April when I tore a muscle in my left calf.

That means I’m almost halfway to a half-marathon…which I’m scheduled to run in November. A couple of months ago, I signed up for the Epcot Wine and Dine half marathon at Disney World. And I signed up for a series of shorter races, mostly 5k distances, over the next year. The first one is in just a week and a half.

I have discovered that I love running. Once I got past the side-cramp, can’t breathe phase, my body started to adjust and I could feel it working my muscles and not just giving me pseudo-heart attacks. I don’t have a very fast pace yet, so a nice 5-mile run takes me about an hour. That’s a blissful hour with no husband, no kids, no customers, no laundry, no errands…in fact, there’s nothing but me, my iPod, the road, and my thoughts. Running is “me time” at its best.

I’ve happily also figured out (mostly) how to avoid exertion headaches. I’ve found that as I exercise more, I get the headaches less-often, even as I add time and/or mileage to a workout. It used to be that I got a headache after every 2-mile run, as well as after every Zumba class. If you’ve ever experienced exertion headaches, you know how frustrating they are. You feel like you have to choose between exercising and feeling good. Those shouldn’t be mutually exclusive!

Here are the things I do that I believe help prevent exertion headaches:

  1. Stay hydrated – I used to run on a completely empty stomach. Now I make sure I have a small glass of water before a run, and I stop twice on my 5- and 6-mile runs to rehydrate. After my run, I try to immediately have an 8-oz glass of water.
  2. Fuel up – To avoid running on an empty stomach, even early in the morning, I’ve started setting my alarm for 3:30am (the night before a long run) to eat half of a banana. It should be digested by my 6:30 run, but helps me have fuel for burning.
  3. Breathe – When running, I try to stay aerobic as much as possible. When teaching a Zumba class, I really focus on breathing well between songs. It’s hard to think about the routine and breathing at the same time, but between songs it’s easy.
  4. Caffeine – I’m addicted, but just to a little amount. I need one cup of coffee in the mornings to avoid a caffeine-withdrawal headache. If I run first thing, I’ll often forget the coffee because I’m drinking water to slake my thirst and fixing a post-workout smoothie. I have to make sure I get the coffee in me, though, to avoid the double effect of caffeine withdrawal and exertion.
  5. NSAIDs – If I am going through a phase where I get exertion headaches more often, I’ll take an NSAID pain reliever right before or right after my run, depending on the length. If I wait until the headache starts, it won’t do much good – but if I can prevent it from beginning, all is well. So either one Rx-strength pill that I have, or 200mg of Advil. (DO NOT TAKE THIS AS MEDICAL ADVICE! THIS IS JUST MY OWN EXPERIENCE!) I only do this on occasional long runs now; while I used to need them for shorter runs, I don’t seem to anymore.
  6. Healthy Eating – Throughout the rest of the day, I watch what I eat to avoid the other headache triggers I know affect me, such as MSG and sodium nitrates. Those are in lots of processed snack foods and meats, so I avoid most of those…and the by-product is that I make healthier food choices overall.

Hopefully if you’re a runner or other fitness enthusiast, you don’t suffer from those and this entire post seems foreign to you. But if my experiences can help someone, all the better. Best of luck in your own workouts!

PS – Nike+ says I’m up to 47 runs and 96 total miles. There are a couple of runs not in there because I was trying out other running apps on my iPhone, but they were short runs so it’s close. Feels good.

My Crazy New Obsession

We made one of our common treks to Disney World a couple of weeks ago. When we got there, the road was blocked, and all of a sudden my husband says, “Oh no, I forgot it was the marathon weekend!” We still made it to the Magic Kingdom, had a great time and all – but all the runners were there too. You could pick them out because:

A. They had on expensive running shoes
B. Many had on those cool non-cotton shirts, which said “I did it!”
C. They all had on MARATHON BLING

OK, I have to admit, I’ve never seen these medals before. They were huge. They were gold. I think they had Donald Duck on them. And they were cool… I wanted one.

Disney Marathon Medals

So now I’m unofficially training for a half-marathon (“because I’m only half crazy”, as the bumper sticker says). I haven’t registered for a race or anything, but I downloaded the half-marathon training manual and started it this week. Two maintenance runs down, and a 3-mile run this weekend. I’m not too worried – I did 3 miles just a few weeks ago. The next week is 4 miles. Still ok; I’ve done that before too. By February, though, I’m in to 7-9 mile weekends. That has me a little worried!

If I make it that far, I think I’ll treat myself to some of those expensive running shoes, even if I have to shoplift them (kidding!)

PS – I got my 9-year-old son out running with me, which should help his base running in Little League and travel ball this spring. He’s a motor mouth though, and talks continuously through the runs. I have to send him back to the house at my halfway point just so I can get some “me time” while running.

My Zumba Love Affair

ZumbaEveryone who knows me knows that my one true fitness love is Zumba. A Latin-inspired combination of dance and aerobics, the Zumba craze has spread worldwide. I took my first class in September of 2010 and was immediately hooked. In March 2011 I took Zumba Basic I and officially became a licensed Zumba instructor. I’m lucky enough to live in Florida, so the annual instructor convention is really close, and in July I spent 4 days in Orlando taking specialty classes in belly dancing, African rhythms, and also got additional licenses in Zumba toning and Zumbatomic, which is the kids program.

I’ll post a lot of Zumba-related things here as time goes by for sure, but I wanted to mention that I have a special site dedicated to Zumba and my classes and experiences. So if you get a chance, head on over to ZumbaSusan.com!