Listen to Your Body (Getting Sick)

Colostomy bag doesn't really go with this outfit

When I was diagnosed with Colitis a little over a year ago, I honestly didn’t think too much of it, I was just thrilled my colonoscopy didn’t show colon cancer! (It’s in my family) As the news set in, though, I started to get scared. Approximately 25% of people with Colitis end up with a colostomy bag at some point in their life. If you don’t know what that is, Google it. (I’ll wait) Right?! Not fun. The drugs can have terrible side effects, the symptoms disrupt everyday life to a very serious point, the body’s immune system is constantly compromised, making it susceptible to other viruses and diseases like cancer. Not to mention, nobody wants to talk about bathroom problems so a lot of people with Chron’s and Colitis suffer silently. I mean, the more I learned the more depressed I got about this disease.

The worst of it all was that I started having trouble getting through long runs without stopping several times to use the facilities. It was ruining my rhythm and my running mojo, and in turn, my spirit. Not one to wallow in self-pity, and with encouragement from my gorgeous husband, Obi-wan and Mrs. Obi-wan, I started to fight back. I found a doctor who rocks, Dr. Boz, and started telling people about my disease. The other thing that made a HUGE difference was that I began to take much better care to listening to my body.

Abby need sleepy

Runners are typically terrible resters. Type A, power-through-the-pain types make lousy patients and very rarely take the time to rest. I am guilty of it, too, so I’m not throwing rocks in glass houses. However, I have found over the past year that I am a much better runner and overall human being when I take time for myself and rest my weary body. I do two-a-days (run & yoga/lift), take back-to-back spin classes, push hard in speed drills, make plans for every second of my day, stay up late doing homework, get up before the sun to get a run in and generally wear myself thin wherever possible. I ALSO make sure I have a couple of days a week where I have several hours to myself. To do whatever. Mani/pedi, nap, watch the latest Netflix movie, stay in my PJs all day, clean out my closets, and I always have one day a week when I do not workout. It’s called active rest. I live in New York City, so walking is how I get to and fro, but I don’t do a run, take a class or lift a weight all day. I let my body rest and recover.

Here’s the thing: resting will make you a better athlete. It will allow for your body to recover and generate new muscle fibers, repair old ones, and allow for you to physically be ready for the next challenge. For me, rest helps to keep my flare-ups in check. Too much rest makes me batty, but just enough keeps me from stressing out and, in turn, getting sick (or sick-er, sometimes).

Go crazy sometimes, have a drink. Then sleep in the next morning!

Here’s a good way to figure out if you need a rest day: keep a stopwatch and a pen next to your bed. Every morning before you sit up or get out of bed, take your heart rate. Over a week’s time you should start to see what your normal resting heart rate is and where/when it isn’t. If you figure that yours is, say, 50 beats per minute, you know that you will need to rest that day if you wake up and it’s 58+. You see, when you are sleeping, your body goes into repair mode, kind of like sending a car to the body shop. If you wake up and find that your resting heart rate is 15% (or more) higher than normal, the mechanics haven’t finished their work and you need to leave it in the shop that day. That way, you will be working with fresh muscles, new cells and will be able to perform at tip-top form.

I’m off to Flywheel this morning with my fabulous cousin, Chi-Chi. And then we’re going to have a spa day at my favorite NYC spot. Can. Not. Wait. Take a day off from running to spend it with one of your favorite people at a spa? Don’t mind if I do. It’s a very big day in New York and I’m looking forward to celebrating with all my peeps tomorrow after the Achilles Hope and Possibility 5-miler. See you there?

Now go out and run…but before you do, tell me how you like to spend a rest day!

Getting Started

When I first started running at the age of 10, it was a pretty simple idea. Do what coach tells you to do in practice and then run as fast as you can in the race. Done. I didn’t think about pace, strategy, speed workouts or rest days. I did what I was told and that was that. Well, come to find out, it’s still pretty simple but just not that simple. I’ve heard people say, “I’m just going to run X miles every day and I’ll build mileage that way” when asked about their training strategy. That’s isn’t necessarily a terrible way to go, but I have found another route to be more effective and less painful.

If a novice runner comes to me for advice on how to get started, I provide them with this 3-month Get Started program. Do these runs three days a week for the designated weeks and you will be on your way to your first 5K!

Month One, Week One-Week Two:

-5 minute walking warm-up                                                                                                              -1 minute run (at an out-of-breath pace)/2 minute recovery walk-repeat for 21 minutes    -4 minute walking cool down (a continuation of your 2 minute walk recovery)

Month One, Week Three-Week Four:

-5 minute walking warm-up                                                                                                              -.25 mile run/2 minute recovery walk-repeat 6-8 times                                                            -5 minute walking cool down

Month Two, Week One-Week Two:

-5 minute walking warm-up                                                                                                               -.5 mile run, 2 minute walking recovery-repeat two-three times                                              -5 minute walking cool down

Month Two, Week Three-Week Four:

-5 minute walking warm-up                                                                                                               -1 mile run, 3-4 minute walking recovery-repeat two-three times                                             -3 minute walking cool down

Month Three, Week One-Two:

-5 minute walking warm-up                                                                                                              -2 mile run                                                                                                                                          -5 minute walking cool down

Month Three, Week Three:

-5 minute walking warm-up                                                                                                              -2.5 mile jog

Month Three, Week Four:

-3 mile jog

Definitions:                                                                                                                                   Run: A pace that doesn’t allow for you to hold a conversation beyond a few words you can spit out between breaths.                                                                                                                   Walking recovery: A pace that allows you to fully catch your breath before you go into your next run (as slow as you like since this doesn’t add to your mileage)                   Warm-up: A brisk walk that is almost a run                                                                           Cool down: A walking pace that first allows you to catch your breath and then becomes a comfortably fast walking pace.                                                                                                   Jog: A run at a conversational pace that is meant to be kept consistent throughout the workout.

Here’s the thing, your body was meant to run in a way and at a pace that is specific to you and your gait. That gait is most natural at a faster clip than at a super-slow jog. When your legs have a chance to stretch out over a longer stride, you engage a variety of muscles at different points in your stride, which makes for less strain on one muscle group (I’m looking at you, quadriceps). I’m not saying that you aren’t a good runner if you run 10-12 minute miles, I am saying that you will feel better and run more comfortably at a faster pace for fewer miles at a time (until you can build into the longer miles) than at a slower one. When you run slowly, you run right on top of your hips because your stride is so short. This makes life very difficult for your quadriceps and your hips, but doesn’t let your fabulous hamstrings and glutes get involved. Stride it out, people! You can build mileage this way, too, and avoid those overuse stress injuries so many novice runners experience.

Yesterday, my client Tampa said to me, “I started running my 3 mile runs at 9 minutes per mile (instead of her regular 10 minute pace) and I feel soooooo much better! And it didn’t even feel that different.” I love it when that happens! You go, Tampa!

See? You can do it! You can run

So give it a try. Run faster for shorter distances and build your mileage that way. Now go out and run!

Flying Rocks Hit Me Sometimes

They do. Here’s what happened:

True story. I was running along the river underneath the FDR, minding my own business, when suddenly *WHACK* Right. Between. The. Eyes. A giant rock tiny pebble smacked me in the forehead, leaving me stunned and standing in the middle of the sidewalk furiously rubbing my head, searching for blood. No blood (hooray!). I jogged home, hoping I wouldn’t have a gigantic bruise on my face that would leave me explaining my story to everyone so they wouldn’t think something bad about Justin, and ran to the mirror to assess the damage. Nada. A little red spot, but no more worse for the wear. It did get me thinking, though. Here are my thoughts.

I fall down, trip, and get generally sick-feeling occasionally when I run. Don’t you? I mean, even sometimes? Well, when I go out and run I sometimes run to Brooklyn or over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey (what’s up, Jersey!) and anywhere else my little heart desires. Problem is, if something happens to me and I’m not able to communicate with paramedics or passersby who find me, they wouldn’t know who I am or who I belong to. Scary, right?

In case of emergency, call Chi-Chi!

That’s why I love my Road ID (shameless plug, but I was definitely NOT compensated for this post or given any free schwag). It’s $20 and has all the pertinent information on it that one might need if I end up on the side of the road somewhere. Given that I have a medical condition that can sometimes sideline me during a run, this little velcro/stainless steel wonder might just save my life one day. I even bought one for my husband because here’s the thing: there are dozens of hospitals in this city and if I ended up in one, these are the three people I’d want notified right away. I can’t imagine my poor husband pacing in our tiny little apartment, worried sick because I didn’t come home from a run. This makes us both feel better about going for a solo run in our big, bad city. And seriously, it’s tiny and weighs nothing.

Some of you might not know the story of Trisha Meili, the Central Park Jogger. Back in 1989 in New York City, Trisha went for a run in Central Park shortly after 9 p.m. Hours later, two men wandering the park found her near death from a brutal beating and rape. In a coma, with 75 percent blood loss, a fierce blow to the head and severe exposure, doctors worried that this young woman might not survive and they didn’t even know her name. For days they couldn’t identify her or let her family know she was alive. If she’d had a Road ID, it might have been a different story.

*PS. Trisha is an active volunteer with the Achilles Track Club and her book, I AM THE CENTRAL PARK JOGGER: A Story of Hope and Possibility inspired the Hope and Possibility 5 miler I am running this Sunday. Come on out and join us!*

Super-light and doesn't get in the way

If that isn’t a case for you to spend $20 for a Road ID tag or some other form of identification, I don’t know what is. Just click the link and get it. They even have this cool interactive feature that allows the doctors or whomever is working on you to go to a link that brings up your ID page (and whatever you choose to put on it) to better treat you or contact your next of kin. How modern are we?! Here’s the link:

So, buy your new tag. I promise that I will stop mothering you about leaving a note telling people where you are going or when you should be expected back. Need more coaxing? Watch 127 Hours and then try and tell me it will never happen to you. That’s what they all say…

Now go out and run (before it rains)!

The “I-only-have-20-minutes-to-run” Workout

Woooooo, baby! It’s getting hot and toasty out there, isn’t it New York? Summer means so many things to so many people: vacation, beach, flip-flops, a trashy novel. In the last few years, summer has come to mean one and only one thing to me: SUMMER SCHOOL! 3-4 days of 2+ hours in class, at least a chapter of material a day, sometimes a lab, homework every night and exams every week. Jealous? I thought so.

My view from the library

While can usually be found studying in the very fabulous Bobst library most mornings and some weekends, where I really long to be running is on the river at sunrise. *sigh* Until August 11th, however, I will have to find another time to run.

Which brings me to my topic of today: how to get an effective run in only 20 minutes on the treadmill. Most runners hate the treadmill while I choose to look at it as “sometimes” tool. Like, how Cookie Monster says, “Cookies are a sometimes food” (Who are we kidding, Cookie Monster?). When I finally do get to run during the day, I’d much prefer to be out in the park or on the trails, but at 1pm on a 98-degree with 85% humidity day, that just isn’t smart nor am I getting much out of that run. Unless you count the very attractive beet-red face I get to sport for the rest of the day (yay Irish!) and a crazy racerback farmer tan as desirable fashion statements, midday outdoor running is just out of the question. No, you won’t find me suffering through that kinda run. You will find me in the air conditioned gym down at the Palladium on a treadmill, rocking out to my tunes (have you checked out the “Tunes” section of this blog?) and working hard on this workout:

-5 minute warm-up (6.5 speed, aka warm-up pace)

-1 minute sprint (9.0-9.5 speed, aka as-fast-as you-can-go-without-falling-off pace)

-1 minute recovery jog (6.5-7.0 speed, aka recovery pace)

I repeat the one minute sprint/one minute recovery jog for 20 minutes and I. Am. Wiped.

Hot and sweaty runs in the park are the best!

I leave the treadmill with jelly legs, huffing and a-puffing my way home. I can’t even tell you how this workout kicks my butt. Try it for yourself if you only have 20 minutes to get an awesome run in. If you really go as fast as you can, and go that fast every single time while resting in between 1 minutes sprints, you will feel it. I promise. Now go out there and run! And if you feel like doing an awesome workout tonight, join me tonight with the lululemon Run Club in Central Park at 6:45 on the 72nd St. Transverse in front of Bethesda Fountain. See you there!

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays & Exercises To Do This Week!

My Dad, Obi-wan, has always said about whatever is going on in his or our lives that, “It’s better than the alternative.” It is, isn’t it? I mean, when you take a look at things going awry in your life, you gotta admit that whatever it is that’s getting you down, you’re still here and that’s better than the alternative. So, here we are on “Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays” where I share what I’m loving about life this week. Today, it’s New York City.

My back yard!

I’ve been having a love affair with the Big Apple for going on nine years now. I can’t get enough of everything this little island has to offer. Specifically, THIS is my back yard, my track, my playground. How lucky am I that I don’t also have to mow it? Central Park is the reason why a midwestern gal like me can continue to live in a bustling metropolis. I’d be lost without the beautiful parks in the city. The magical season of Cherry Blossom trees is reason alone to live in New York City. What can I say? I’m smitten!

These amazing trees EXPLODE every spring

Now, onto the exercises of the day! The deeply fabulous LB modeled some moves just for you all this morning during her 6:30AM workout.

*As always, consult a physician before starting any exercise program. Stop immediately if you feel faint, dizzy, nauseous or otherwise unwell. These exercises are not for everyone, consult a fitness professional for proper technique and form*

1. Standing lunges. I like walking lunges just as much as the next person, but proper form can be a challenge to maintain with so many moving parts. Oh, and for all you runners out there (and anyone else who may desire some lift in your behind), this is an amazing glute strengthener! My physical therapist prescribed these for me when I strained my gluteus medius (ouch) to beef up my rump!







Stand with one leg forward and one leg back. Be sure your feet are hips-width apart and your back heel is high to the sky. Slowly lower your knee to the ground, staying tall with your chest, until both knees are at 90 degrees. Be careful that your front knee doesn’t jut out in front of your toes. Push through your front heel back to standing, both legs completely straight. Rinse. Repeat. 12-15 reps each leg for 3 sets.

2. Reverse abdominal roll-ins. A favorite among my clients. Ok, I lied, the are actually my favorite and not always the most-requested exercise, but a very effective one nonetheless! The most important thing about this exercise is to control the motion and not get carried away with speed and momentum. If done slowly, you will feel your abdominals supporting and balancing your every move.







Start in a plank (shoulders over your wrists, straight arms) with your knees/shins on the physio ball. Draw your knees toward your chest while lifting your rear end toward the sky. The lifting part is reeeeally important so that it’s an abdominal exercise and you’re not just flailing around on the ball. Gently and slowly roll your body out until you’re straight again. The slower you go, the harder more effective it is! Repeat 8-10 times, 2-3 sets. This one can get tough on the wrists if you have even the slightest hint of carpal tunnel, so skip it if anything starts to hurt.

There you go! Round of applause for LB, who wanted me to tell all of you how much she loves this particular lululemon tank top. It’s not in the stores anymore, but the Light Up Tank is very similar and is both in stores and online. Now, go for a run and then hit the gym with these fabulous exercises for a stronger body. Just a reminder that the Lululemon Run Club will be guiding the Achilles Track Club through a run/walk workout in the park tonight at 6pm. Meet at the Engineer’s Gate in Central Park.

Happy Summer Solstice, everyone! What are you doing to celebrate the day?