We’re Going Streaking!

Runner’s World is doing this awesome thing where they challenge runners to run at least a mile every day starting on Thanksgiving and ending on New Year’s Day 2012. It’s called the Runner’s World Holiday Streak. Of course, I’m totally in, as I am looking for a new challenge while I come down off of my high from Philly.

Wanna join in? Cool. Start with me on Thursday and let me know how you’re doing. Check in on Twitter with the hashtag #RWRunStreak and comment here on the blog under the “Streak” tag.

I can’t wait to hear who all is with me on this. So far, I’ve got a tentative YES from Red. Any other takers???

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: Rewards

Welcome to another edition of Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays where we take a moment and say, “yeah, it’s better to be here than not to be here.” I definitely need this reminder at least once a week that, no matter how much things suck, they could be so much worse. I could not be here. You could not be here. But we are, so let’s just take stock.

This week’s theme is Rewards.

You know when you set a goal, work really hard to achieve it and are rewarded for your hard work how great that feels? I’m feeling that and loving it this week.

After completing my 9th marathon in Philly this weekend, I’m definitely basking in the glory of my medal, the ultimate Reward for a runner.

Proudly displayed on our medal rack! (Nice rack! hahahaha, I kill me)

Red says it should be made of gold. I think it’s made of blood, sweat, tears and carbs. There’s nothing quite like feeling the weight of a medal around my neck after a hard-fought path to the finish line. Don’t get me wrong, Philly was beautiful and I fully expect that I will do this race again in the very near future. But the whole journey to Philly was a struggle.

I struggled with making the time between studying, working, being a wife and a sibling and a friend and making time to run. I struggled with my Ulcerative Colitis for the better part of the training season and learned some serious humility in the process. I struggled with my diet, which had to be modified to account for the changes in my disease. I struggled with every single cold virus that went through NYU this Fall. I struggled with finding a balance between wanting to do it all and knowing that I can’t do it all. I struggled.

And yet, with my medal firmly placed around my neck and my husband holding my hand, there was no better feeling in the world. I had struggled, yes, but I had conquered. And I had the Reward to prove it: my shiny new medal.

I love a good post-race medal photo!

Rewards are so important to give to ourselves and others. It’s acknowledgment, encouragement and praise all wrapped into one “You did it!” momento. Some people Reward themselves with food, clothes, a trip, sleep, a day off. Other people Reward us with presents, cards, words of praise, flowers, a foot rub. (Isn’t it just the best when someone else Rewards you?) Whatever it is that you do to Reward yourself for accomplishing a goal, it is imperative that you celebrate.

Be proud of what you’ve done! Show the world how awesome you are! Let people know you’re working toward something and when you’ve reached it, share that, too! Reward yourself and congratulate yourself for the accomplishments in your life.

I didn’t always celebrate myself the way that I did other people in my life. You know where that got me? Nowhere. I felt ignored and my accomplishments unacknowledged. I learned to open up and let people know I was working really hard at some task and when I achieved it, I was going to mark the occasion.

Sometimes it’s a high-five. Sometimes it’s a party. Sometimes it’s a medal around my neck. No matter what form it comes in, that Reward will keep me working hard toward newer, and maybe harder goals. And that’s the key. Rewards keep us moving forward.

So, next time you think that finishing a “little” 5K isn’t something worth Rewarding yourself for, think again. Grab a new sparkly headband and mark the occasion. Reward yourself (in a productive way…) and celebrate how awesome you are! Or maybe Reward someone else for their accomplishment. Everyone loves a shout-out, even if it’s on Facebook or Twitter. Go ahead, Reward a stranger at the finish line with a high-five. I bet you you make them smile.

BTAT: Rewards. Pass it on.

Now go out and run!

Philly

Philadelphia is a cool town. I like the little streets and the architecture is truly beautiful. It was even cooler at daybreak as me and 25,000 of my closest running buddies headed to the start line of the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon.

I ran. I finished.

But first, I met Bart Yasso, Editor-at-large for Runner’s World Magazine and creator of my favorite marathon workout, Yasso 800s. Yes, THAT Bart Yasso.

Hey, Bart!

He’s only the most friendly guy in the world. He’s also very gracious. He signed my book, took a picture with me and chatted with me about our mutual love for lululemon run apparel. His favorites are the Run: Response shorts. He also promised to join us for a Wednesday night run club next time he’s in the city. We’ll be ready for you, Bart!

I spent Saturday afternoon napping at our hotel before we hit up our dinner reservation for some good ‘ol fashioned pasta. Thanks, Maggiano’s Little Italy for making a special dish just for me and my stupid colitis tummy.

Success #1. Drugs. On that note, I was completely hopped up on the ‘roids on race day. Whatever. Thanks to my fabulous drugs, the quick thinking of my awesome PA and last-minute freak-out emails with Ali when I fully should have been listening in Physics class, I was basically bathroom problem-free on Sunday morning. Basically.

Success #2. Corral starts were staggered and awesome. I was put in the perfect corral pace for me and enjoyed a fairly spread-out start. I was also dressed perfectly, thanks to  my favorite lululemon apparel: Energy BraCool Racerback Tank TopRun: Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve (which I ditched at mile 5), Run: Mind Over Matter Pullover (from Spring ’11 line), Run: For Your Life Crops (from Summer/Fall ’11 line) and Run: Brisk Gloves at the start.

Ready to run!

Oh, but I totally bit it in the middle of the road at mile 5.5. Me and two other people all fell in the exact same spot, which made me feel a little better that I wasn’t he only klutz on the course. Super-cool part of it all is that I was fine and hardly spent any time on the pavement, as I was almost immediately drawn to my feet by three rather large male runners, each of whom grabbed my arms and promptly put me back on my feet. Thanks, guys!

I held myself back in the first 10 miles, which kept me at an 8:11-8:30 pace. I wanted to maintain an 8:30 as long as I could, knowing I’d probably end up slowing down in the last 6 miles even if I pushed harder. It felt slow to begin with and maybe I’ll tinker with going out a little faster on training run in the future, but I was really very ok with it yesterday. Saw JB at mile 7 (he looked pretty content with a coffee in one hand, waving at me with the other) and kept on truckin’.

Success #3. Only one POJ stop at mile 13.1. I’ll take it. I am sad that I missed seeing JB jumping up and down, waving his arms looking for me but I was probably too distracted and looking for the nearest POJ to notice a 6’2” Marine-looking dude jumping up and down, which he swears he was doing (for the record, I have NEVER seen him do this in my life so if anyone caught this on film/camera, pleeeeease email it to me so that I might see my husband cheering like a wild animal).

The scenery was really beautiful past mile 13. I know a lot of people hate an out and back and I’m normally with ya’ll on that, but this out and back was gorgeous! It was a beautiful run along the cliff-lined river on our way to Manayunk. Once in Manayunk, we were greeted by hundreds of cheering fans and a DJ nearly every mile. There was that point where they had beer shots out for runners and I almost gagged on the smell of stale beer being heated up on the pavement, but other than that it was lovely!

Success #4. Seeing my friends. I almost cried several times during this marathon. I blame my hormones. And my family. And my friends who came all the way from New York just to cheer for me at mile 24.5. And they made me my very own sign that was “3D”. They were cheering “Ab-by! Ab-by! Ab-by!” as I blew kisses and shuffled on by them and then met me at the finish with JB. I mean, seriously.

Best gals in the world. You shall remain nameless, but not faceless because you're too pretty for that. I hope ya'll don't mind.

Success #5. I did not lose it and cry. Phew. I damn near broke down when I heard several songs: “My Life Would Suck Without You” at mile 16 (weird, but there’s a reason), “Born To Run” at mile 18, “Gonna Fly Now” at mile 24, “Learning To Fly” at mile 25. When I got to mile 22, I knew I was going to finish and be just fine. This also made me want to cry, but I didn’t. No crying = success!

And then I was almost done. Since my name was written on my number as “Abigail” and not Abby, if I ever heard anyone yell “Go Abby!” I knew that they actually knew me! This was the case at the finish when I saw a friendly face from the city who had run the half marathon and stuck around to cheer us marathoners on. Thanks, AH!

I wish my Garmin hadn’t died at mile 24.7 so that I knew where I was in the last few miles, but whatever. Apparently, my computer has to be on in order for the silly gadget to charge. Whatever. It did it’s job for most of the race so I guess it’s ok. The finish line was around a corner and I didn’t see it until I was on top of it. This is a good mental note for the next time I do Philly: Finish line is around that big corner.

Success #6. I did it. Official finish time-3:56. Yippeee!

See? Told you I'd have this photo to show ya'll! Wow, JB, I really DO turn blue when I finish a race.

JB was there at the finish line (he tells me I looked great when I was finishing. Isn’t he kind? I know I probably had “the face” happening) where he helped me break the law and hop the corrals and whisked me back to the hotel where he promptly dropped my very cold body into a very warm tub. I know, I know, COLD water bath. Well, I was turning blue so hypothermia > muscular edema. Warm bath wins.

Success #7. We made our train and were home by 3:30 that afternoon. I was asleep on the couch by 8pm with a tummy full of (cheeseless) pizza and breadsticks. Mmmmmm…

All in all, a really great weekend. Thank you all who have cheered me on both near and far for the past few weeks, months and years as I truck along on this crazy journey we call life. I appreciate all the Tweets and Facebook comments of encouragement more than you will probably ever realize. I’m looking forward to lots of great races in the near future and maybe even a Spring marathon (any takers?).

Congratulations to everyone who ran the inaugural Brooklyn Marathon in Prospect Park on Sunday. I do not envy you on that course. Ouch.

Stay classy, Philly. And thanks for the memories.

Now go out and run!

Fitness News Fridays: Oh boy

Oh boy, Philly is TWO DAYS AWAY. I am doing marathon “prep” all day today, in every way I know how and some I’m not going to share. I’m really looking forward to the big day. I feel rested, relaxed (sort of…) and the new drugs have kicked in so I am ready to rock! Even Mother Nature wants me to PR on Sunday!


Mostly Cloudy
High
64°FPrecip
20%
Wind: From SW at 13 mph
Humidity: 72%
UV Index: 2 Low

Thank you in advance, Mother Nature, for the very mild weather. I plan on wearing my crops, a blue tank top, a white pullover and a ponytail-braid. Look for me! I am also the girl who puts her name on her shirt, so I shouldn’t be too hard to find.

I am lucky enough to have my husband and two very awesome lululemon friends coming to cheer me on. The local lululemon store has cheer stations at miles 16 and 22.5, exactly where I need them. I just hope I don’t shame the family.

Anyway, there’s a bunch of cool science stuff happening in the world of fitness this week so let’s get right to what you might’ve missed!

That’s it for me today, everybody. The next time you read from me, I will have complete my 9th marathon. I might cry. Don’t judge. If you’re out running on Sunday and you have a moment, send a happy thought my way. I’ll be thinking of all of you and running my little heart out!
Now go out and run!

The Stretch Question

Is it better to stretch before, after or during workouts?

Ahhhh…to stretch or not to stretch, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the minds of fitness addicts everywhere to stretch at all in order to avoid suffering a the slings and arrows of hamstring misfortune.

You can take the girl out of the theater, but you can’t take the theater out of the girl, ya’ll.

Back to the question and my answer.

After or after warm-up, unless it is active stretching. I never stretch before I run.

Two types of stretching: Active and Static. Active stretching is the kind that happens while moving (think yoga) and static is the standing still and stretching. Active stretching involves flexing and extending the muscles while moving in various directions, allowing for increased blood flow and, in turn, further extension of the muscle fibers. Static stretching has its place, but only after your blood flow has been increased via a mile or so warm-up.

Why?

Well, stretching muscles that aren’t “warm” (ie. your blood flow and heart rate haven’t been increased for any period of time–walking doesn’t usually do it) doesn’t allow for increased flexibility. In fact, yanking at “cold” muscles will likely do the opposite of stretching them and they probably won’t lengthen out the way you’d like them to do. Even more of a bummer, the effects are short-lived and don’t increase flexibility beyond a few seconds or minutes at the most.

Static stretching is ok, too, but only under certain circumstances. You want to have started to sweat at least a little bit before you start any kind of stretching. Warm up for a mile or so and then take 10-15 minutes to get your stretch on while your muscles are still warm. I find that after a long, hard run (like the marathon this weekend!), static stretching is really all I have energy for. It MUST be done while you’re still warm, though, and before your muscle fibers have a chance to shorten and adhere to one another post-workout. You have about a 10 minute window where you can get the most benefit out of stretching post-workout.

Active stretching, like in yoga class or in a dance warm-up, involves constant movement in a variety of directions that get your heart rate up and both flex and extend each of your muscles groups over the course of about 15-30 minutes. This can be used as a warm-up to a run or a cool down from a run. For example, running to a yoga class is a great way to get your workout on and then lengthen those muscles long-term. Making this a regular (weekly) part of your fitness routine will provide more flexibility in your muscles and joints and help prevent injury.

In short, stretching is good, but you’ve got to make sure your body is prepared for it. At least, that’s my opinion of how to get a good stretch on.

Now go out and run!